Justin Thomas carded a closing 68 to secure a comfortable three-stroke victory at the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club in Illinois.
The 26-year-old American started the final round with a six-stroke lead following his record-breaking third round 61, and although fellow countryman Patrick Cantlay halved the margin of his lead with a final round 65, Thomas had more than enough in hand to take the third leg of the FedEx Cup finals, with a 72-hole aggregate score of 25 under par.
Thomas’s advantage over Cantlay was cut to just two shot when he bogeyed the 10th hole, after almost hitting his second out of bounds, but the leader steadied the ship by twice holing putts of around 12 feet to re-establish his authority.
“Patrick made that very interesting,” a relieved Thomas said. “I was really nervous today. It’s hard to play with the lead, and I hit the ball so bad to start the day. I’m usually pretty good at hitting fairways and greens, but I couldn’t hit a fairway. But I stayed patient and that birdie on 11 was huge.”
The victory was the 10th of his PGA Tour career, but the first this year in what has been an injury-interrupted season. Thomas hurt his wrist in March and took six weeks off to rest.
“I’d forgotten how hard it was to win,” said Thomas, who moved up to fifth in the world rankings. “This game is so hard, you don’t know how often things like this are going to happen. It’s not like I’ve been playing badly. In fact, I would argue I’ve played just as well this year as any other year. But it’s a tough game and I learned to respect it and be patient.”
The result means Thomas is the number one seed at next week’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta. The top 30 players on the FedEx Cup points list qualified for the event, where the winner at East Lake will collect $15 million. For the first time the tournament will use a staggered start based on players’ position in the points race, with Thomas starting at 10 under par. The qualifiers ranked 26th to 30th will begin at even par.
Three players who started the BMW Championship outside the top 30 in the standings earned their place at the Tour Championship — Hideki Matsuyama, Lucas Glover and Jason Kokrak. Missing out was Open champion Shane Lowry, along with Americans Andrew Putnam and Harold Varner III. There will be no defending champion at East Lake, as Tiger Woods did not qualify after finishing equal 37th.
Frenchman Tom Gueant beat Wilmer Ederö of Sweden on the 37th hole to win the 93rd R&A Boys’ Amateur Championship at Saunton Golf Club in Devon.
Gueant became the first Frenchman to lift the trophy since Patrick Cros’ victory at Olton in 1960. He will now play in the 125th Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale and West Lancashire, and gains an exemption into Final Qualifying for The 149th Open Championship at Royal St Georges as a result of his victory.
In a nervy start, Gueant and Ederö both opened with bogeys, the Frenchman adding another at the second to give his opponent a one-hole advantage. Ederö then made a bogey at the third for the match to be squared.
In true links fashion, the conditions at Saunton were challenging through the opening 18 holes, and it was mistakes as much as converted opportunities that dictated the lead. A bogey five on the 7th from Gueant saw Ederö once again take a one-hole lead which the 15-year-old Swede extended by making the only birdie in the opening 18 holes of the match at the par-four 10th.
Showing great composure, Gueant parred his way into the clubhouse winning four holes to take a two-hole lead as Ederö continued to battle with the conditions. He recorded bogeys on the 12th and 14th and the two closing holes to hand his opponent the advantage going into the afternoon of the 36-hole final.
Gueant’s lead quickly evaporated, however, as he conceded the 20th and lost the 21st with a bogey. A further error on the 22nd saw his Swedish opponent reclaim the lead for the first time since the 13th. Gueant responded with his first birdie of the day on the 23rd to level the match for the fifth time.
A bogey from Ederö on the 25th saw him go one down but he fought back with a birdie on the 27th to square the match. The 15-year-old continued to show plenty of determination setting up a birdie opportunity on the 30th hole which just slid past the hole.
Ederö seemed to have seized the initiative when he birdied the 32nd and 33rd to take a two-hole advantage on Gueant, but the Frenchman rallied impressively to stage a late comeback, winning the 35th and 36th to take the match to extra holes. A birdie three on the 37th was enough to seal a hard-fought victory.
Speaking after the gruelling match, Gueant said: “This is one of the greatest junior championships in the world, so I am really happy to be the champion this year. It was really tight at the end. I was two down after 34 holes, so to win on the 37th was incredible.
“I tried not to think about the result and how the match was going, and focused more on the wind and the external elements, and on playing each shot. Standing over the winning putt I was just saying to myself, ‘this is just a putt like I have had a million times, just make it and it will be good’. It was really good to have my dad with me, and I am really happy to have had that moment. He is always supporting me, and I really want to thank him for that.”
The 12 European players to take on the USA in the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles have been confirmed following the conclusion of the tenth and final qualifying event.
The PING Junior Solheim Cup takes place over Gleneagles’ King’s Course on September 10-11, before the Solheim Cup is held over the PGA Centenary Course from September 13-15.
Six players qualified automatically from the European rankings at the end of the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Panmure Golf Club in Scotland, which concluded a campaign featuring events in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Another six were selected by captain Mickey Walker, including Scotland’s Hannah Darling. Her fellow wildcard selections were English pair Annabell Fuller and Lily May Humphreys (pictured above), Amalie Leth-Nissen from Denmark, Lilas Pintheir of France and Germany’s Paula Schulz-Hanßen.
Slovenian Pia Babnik, 15, topped the European rankings convincingly after winning the final two events, followed by Lucie Malchirand of France, Italians Benedetta Moresco and Alessia Nobilio, England’s Mimi Rhodes and Anne Normann of Denmark.
Walker, who was the first European Solheim Cup captain back in the inaugural edition in 1990, said: “I am excited to announce such a young, talented and truly international European Team for this year’s PING Junior Solheim Cup. This will be a special week for everyone involved and create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. I am delighted that the matches will be played at Gleneagles – one of the most iconic golfing venues in the UK and one of my personal favourite places to visit and play golf. I feel sure that all of the girls participating in the PJSC will also feel the same.
“I am very much looking forward to renewing my friendship with Mary Bea Porter King – a friend from our playing days on the LPGA Tour – and meeting her talented US Team.
“Finally, on behalf of the European Team I would like to say a big thank you to John Solheim and his family for their vision and generosity in creating this wonderful match between the very best young players from two continents.”
The PING Junior Solheim Cup began in 2002 thanks to the Solheim family’s vision to give female golfers aged 12 to 18 a taste of the biennial competition and the chance to compete on a big stage. John Solheim, PING chairman and CEO, said: “The depth of talent on Mickey Walker’s team is very impressive and promises to create some exciting and memorable moments at Gleneagles. It’s wonderful to see sixcountries represented. It speaks to the wide appeal of the game and is a testament to the golf organisations within each country that have committed to developing such talented young ladies. Their experience will be unforgettable as they represent Europe in its quest to win the PING Junior Solheim Cup under Mickey’s leadership. It will be a passion-filled, hard-fought competition kicking off a tremendous week of golf. We wish them all the best.”
The USA currently hold the PING Junior Solheim Cup trophy after their 14.5 – 9.5 victory two years ago, one of seven victories in the competition since it began in 2002. Europe’s two victories came in 2003 and 2007, both of which were played in Sweden.
USA captain Mary Bea Porter King announced her team on July 31 – CLICK HERE to see their line-up.
The European Tour has announced a four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in professional golf.
The plan, which will be implemented at the start of the 2020 season, was approved by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee in July and fine-tuned over the past month. It will focus on four key areas: regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.
Key to the regulation changes will be a player only having to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-shot penalty. In addition, there will be significantly increased fines for players who are regularly placed ‘on the clock’ throughout the season, alongside reduced times for players to play shots.
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said: “We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps. I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”
In addition to the regulation changes, and in a bid to foster meaningful mindset change amongst players, education will also be key to the European Tour’s proactive plan. All players will now be required to pass an interactive rules test as part of their conditions of membership, while new members will be allocated a dedicated referee to educate them on pace of play policies at the start of their European Tour career.
Technology will also be embraced with the trial of a new ‘Pace of Play’ timing system at next month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The system will provide referees with the precise times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed. In a ground-breaking development, on-tee displays linked to the system will also provide the players instantaneous information on their position in relation to the group in front.
Depending on the success of the trial of the system and future technological developments in this area, it is something that will looked to be rolled out across a significant number of tournaments on the European Tour, the Challenge Tour and the Staysure Tour in 2020 and beyond.
Finally, there will also be a commitment to reducing field sizes where possible, while remaining mindful of providing playing opportunities, as well as using larger starting intervals during the final two rounds of tournaments.
Tournament Committee chairman David Howell, said: “There is no doubt that pace of play is a hot topic in golf and as players we were keen to explore ways to address these issues in various areas. We have had some very interesting and robust debates in the process of agreeing the new initiatives,” added the five-time European Tour champion and two-time Ryder Cup player. “But with a combination of education, deterrents, technology and modifications to the fields, we believe we have arrived at a set of fair and proportional measures to improve the experience for everyone involved in the game.”
GB&I captain Craig Watson has announced the names of the ten players he has selected to play against America in the 47th Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club next month.
The GB&I team includes Amateur champion James Sugrue, English Amateur champion Conor Gough (pictured) and Conor Purcell, who won the Australian Amateur Championship earlier this year.
Alex Fitzpatrick, whose brother Matt played in the Walker Cup in 2013, is also selected alongside Scotland’s Euan Walker, who finished runner-up in both the Amateur Championship and European Amateur Championship.
Speaking about his team, Watson said: “It has been a very difficult decision to select ten players from such a strong squad, but we have been very impressed with the results of those we have picked and we believe they will give us the best chance of regaining the Walker Cup against a strong American team.”
He added: “The Walker Cup is a fantastic opportunity for these players to demonstrate their talents on the big stage, and it will be an experience that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. We are looking forward to the match at Hoylake, and I’m sure the players will give it their very best to win.”
GB&I is bidding to win back the trophy after the USA secured a 19-7 victory in the 2017 match at Los Angeles Country Club. Home advantage has favoured the winners in recent matches, with GB&I winning in 2011 at Royal Aberdeen and 2015 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. The matches take place from September 7-8.
The GB&I team
Alex Fitzpatrick, Hallamshire, 20
Conor Gough, Stoke Park, 16
Harry Hall, West Cornwall, 22
Thomas Plumb, Yeovil, 20
Conor Purcell, Portmarnock, 22
Caolan Rafferty, Dundalk, 26
Sandy Scott, Nairn, 21
Tom Sloman, Taunton & Pickeridge, 23
James Sugrue, Mallow, 22
Euan Walker, Kilmarnock (Barassie), 23
Reserves: Ben Schmidt, Rotherham, 17; Ben Jones, Northamptonshire County, 20
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose enjoyed strong starts to The Northern Trust as Tiger Woods faced an early exit after the opening day of the FedExCup Play-Offs.
Troy Merritt matched the course-record of 62 to claim the outright lead on nine under par, one clear of two-time champion Dustin Johnson, while McIlroy and Rose both fired 65s as two-thirds of the field managed to break the par of 71.
But Woods was not among them after he struggled to a 75 and ended the day with only two players below him on the leaderboard, and the Masters champion will need something special on Friday to avoid missing the cut for the third time in his five starts since his Augusta National triumph.
Woods is a remarkable 13 strokes adrift of Merritt, who arrived at Liberty National ranked 72nd in the FedExCup standings with only the top 70 advancing to the second of the three play-off events at the BMW Championship next week.
Merritt took advantage of the ideal scoring conditions early in the day and birdied four of his first five holes before picking up five more shots while keeping a clean card to claim a one-stroke lead over Johnson, whose two previous victories in the tournament came at different venues.
Johnson did his scoring in two separate bursts as he made four birdies in five holes from the 13th – his fourth – and he then reeled off four in a row on the front nine to climb to eight under and one ahead of Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm, who were also bogey-free for the first day.
McIlroy dropped a shot at his opening hole but bounced back with five birdies and a superb eagle at the 13th, while Rose joined the group at six under late in the day after battling through the breezier, afternoon conditions.
Defending FedExCup champion Rose was not on top of his game but managed to limit the mistakes before producing an excellent finish with four birdies over the final six holes including a 30-foot putt for a three at the tricky 15th.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett continued his late-season resurgence as he fired a classy five-under 66, and the Englishman will need more of the same over the next three days to climb the 40 places he needs to qualify for next week.
Russell Knox, currently ranked only four places higher than Willett at 106, also made an encouraging start in his bid to extend his PGA Tour season with his 66, while former FedExCup winners Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were one further behind.
World No 1 Brooks Koepka, who outplayed McIlroy on the final day in Memphis to win his first WGC title a fortnight ago, was five shots worse than his playing-partner in New Jersey, while Woods made a succession of errors with his irons and hinted afterwards that he was relieved just to break 80.
Woods made three birdies but littered his card with five bogeys and one double-bogey at the short 14th, where he pulled a nine-iron long and left of the green and had to take a penalty drop as he needed four shots just to find the putting surface.
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