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Sky Sports Golf podcast: Matt Wallace, Phil Mickelson and the distance debate

Matt Wallace’s near-miss in Scotland, Phil Mickelson continuing his winning run on the PGA Tour Champions and the distance debate all feature in the latest Sky Sports Golf podcast.

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Eight-time Solheim Cup player Trish Johnson and Kit Alexander join host Josh Antmann to reflect on the talking points from another busy week in the golfing world.

The panel look back at Adrian Otaegui’s victory at the Scottish Championship and discuss what went wrong for Wallace on the final day, where he squandered a three-shot advantage, plus they look at what the Englishman can do to ensure a return to the winner’s circle.

The trio review Jason Kokrak’s long-awaited breakthrough victory at The CJ Cup and a second win in as many starts for Mickelson, leading to questions about whether the five-time major champion is going to dominate the over-50s circuit.

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Johnson explains why she believes golf courses are often not fair for players within the professional women’s game, and she gives her view on whether she would risk playing the Houston Open – where fans are being allowed – the week before the Masters in the current Covid-19 climate.

The trio also look ahead to this week’s Italian Open and Zozo Championship, where Tiger Woods defends his title, plus answer the best of your questions sent in to @SkySportsGolf.

The Golf Vodcast: St October

October 21, 2020, 7:00pm

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Download and listen to the latest Sky Sports Golf podcast and don’t forget to subscribe via Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

The Vodcast version is out now on Sky Sports On Demand, with the show also on Sky Sports Golf this Wednesday from 7pm and 10pm.

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Matt Wallace opens up three-shot lead at Scottish Championship

Matt Wallace birdied his final two holes to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Scottish Championship presented by AXA.

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Scottish Championship presented by AXA

The Englishman’s fast finish closed out a blemish-free round and saw him post a third consecutive 66 in as many days at Fairmont St Andrews, pulling him clear of Garrick Porteous.

Overnight co-leader Adrian Otaegui sits four strokes back in third ahead of Sean Crocker, with Eddie Pepperell part of a three-way tie for fifth on 12 under alongside Chris Paisley and Jonathan Caldwell.

“To finish the way I did was really nice,” Wallace said. “It’s probably the best I’ve ever handled myself. Sometimes I feel like I wanted to push on but I stayed really patient and it showed there by the end.”

Wallace missed a five-foot birdie opportunity at the third but made amends by rolling in from 15 feet at the next, before driving the green at the par-four seventh and converting a 20-footer for eagle.

The world No 51 ended a run of missed birdie chances from inside 15 feet with a close-range gain at 14th, with a bunker hole-out at the par-three 17th and a kick-in birdie at the last extending his advantage.

Porteous made his move up the leaderboard with five birdies in the first eight holes of his third-round 66, while Otaegui was with him in a share of second until finishing his two-under 70 with a penultimate-hole bogey.

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Crocker made an eagle and seven birdies in his eventful five-under 67 to get within five of the lead, with Scottish Open champion Aaron Rai seven back after a double-bogey at the 17th saw him settle for a level-par 72.

Adrian Saddier dropped three shots over his final three holes to join Rai on 11 under, while three straight bogeys around the turn saw Lee Westwood post a third-round 72 and slip into tied-20th,

Who will win the Scottish Championship presented by AXA? Watch the final round live on Sunday from midday on Sky Sports Golf!

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Australian Open bites the COVID dust

The Australian Open, PGA Championship and Women’s Australian Open have moved from postponed to cancelled in a major blow for the summer of golf.

It will be the first time since 1945 a calendar year will pass without an Australian Open being played.

The Open and PGA had been postponed from their December dates to February but, along with the women’s Open, which was also scheduled for February, won’t go ahead because of the global pandemic.

Numerous plans were raised to stage the events, but with continued border restrictions, quarantine periods and what loomed as a packed calendar of international events, a plan that worked couldn’t be found.

The events were to be staged in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

“It’s unprecedented and a real blow for Australian golf and its fans,” PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman said.

“We have collectively spent months in exhaustive consultation with all relevant authorities and our sanctioning partners to try to find a way to stage all three events safely and at that world-class level to which we’ve all become accustomed.

“But even with multiple contingency plans, it has reached a point where decisions have to be made and this, regrettably, is the one we’ve had to take.”

The events could yet return to their traditional dates in November and December in 2021, with the women’s Open next likely to be held in 2022.

“Even with multiple contingency plans, it has reached a point where decisions have to be made and this, regrettably, is the one we’ve had to take.”

The #AusPGA, @AusOpenGolf and @WomensAusOpen sadly won't go ahead.

🗞️ https://t.co/5wULHfnJ0Y pic.twitter.com/DGWLbyQ6Hv

A raft of measures were considered – including players entering a hub and competing while serving a strict quarantine period, as well as restricting crowd numbers and movement – but all options were unviable.

The impact of COVID-19, most notably in assembling international fields and ensuring the safety of players, spectators and officials, has forced the decision.

It’s the first time since 1995 that the PGA won’t be played and the first time since 2006 that the women’s Open will not be contested.

New Golf Australia boss James Sutherland said the decisions were taken with an incredibly heavy heart given the tournaments’ history and international significance.

“On the advice of relevant domestic government authorities and with consideration for the global nature of our fields and partners, the call was made with the health and wellbeing of the golfing community as the priority,“ Sutherland said.

“The events rely on significant support from players and tours around the world, so given current quarantine restrictions, we believe the field strength of all three events would be severely compromised.”

Adam Scott won last year’s PGA on the Gold Coast and will have to wait an extra 12 months to defend his title.

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Presidents Cup 2019: Tiger Woods puts fun first at Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods’ decision to pair himself with Justin Thomas in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge raised a few eyebrows ahead of next week’s Presidents Cup showdown.

Captain of Team USA and with 11 of his 12 players tuning up at his event in the Bahamas, Woods had the job of picking the first round twosomes in the 18-man field with one eye firmly on Royal Melbourne.

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But his picks were in stark contrast to the predictions of a host of experts and were an indication Woods was going to do things his way in his first outing as skipper.

The only pairing which met expectations was that of Patrick Reed and Presidents Cup first-timer Patrick Cantlay, the duo having played together in all three of editions of the Zurich Classic, the only teams event on the regular US PGA Tour.

Thomas partnering with Rickie Fowler, the last man added to the American team, was considered a lock after they won two of their three matches together in 2017 at Liberty National.

Tiger Woods with pair with Justin Thomas in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Woods suggested his pairings in the Bahamas were more about getting his players to have “fun” rather than a precursor to what may happen at the Presidents Cup.

“It’s the end of the year, I know they want to gear up for next week as well, but I want them to have a good time,” Wood said.

“The only time I’m able to do that and pair up guys with friends is the first day.

“It’s great the guys were able to come here and play … to be able to compete, shake off a little rust if they have any, work on some things they are going to need to either win this event or be ready for next week, just be in the competitive flow for two weeks.”

Dustin Johnson was the only member of the USA team not playing in the Bahamas. His spot in the field was taken by Chaz Reavie, who was paired with Presidents Cup bound Matt Kuchar, an indication he was likely to play with Johnson.

The pairings for the opening round of four-ball at the Presidents Cup won’t be announced until next Wednesday.

THE BAHAMAS PAIRINGS

Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas

Rickie Fowler/Tony Finau

Xander Schauffele/Gary Woodland

Bryson DeChambeau/Webb Simpson

Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay

Originally published asTiger wants to have fun before Cup

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PGA Tour in Atlanta suspended after lightning strikes injure fans

US PGA Tour officials have been forced to explain why tee times were not adjusted to forecasted storms after a lightning strike led to the injuries of six people at East Lake Golf Club during round three at the Tour Championship.

At 4.45pm on Saturday, two lightning strikes shook the Atlanta course — one hitting a tree beside the 16th hole at East Lake.

Debris falling from the tree injured four people, who were immediately treated by paramedics before two more people received attention.

The injured people were transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital but PGA Tour officials stated the injuries were not life threatening.

“I felt like I was in a major car accident, like I was blindsided by a car, is what it felt like. And so in the split second that it happened, I realised it was lightning.” Billy Kramer told CNN of the scary moment.

At least five people were injured Saturday after lightning struck at an Atlanta golf club hosting the PGA Tour.pic.twitter.com/qgR0v0kh2u

On Friday night, thunderstorms were forecast to hit Atlanta from 3pm on Saturday but third round tee times for the 30-player tournament were not brought forward.

The final group teed off at 3.20pm on Saturday with play suspended at 4.17pm due to inclement weather.

Officials then suspended play for the rest of the day and it is scheduled to resume at 8am on Sunday morning.

Mark Russell, a vice president of rules at the US PGA Tour, said moving up tee times was never a consideration because weather forecast only showed chance of “pop-up thunderstorms”.

The TV broadcast window was 2.30pm to 7pm on American network NBC.

“We had a situation where they were pop-up thunderstorms,” Russell said in an impromptu press conference.

“We have a meteorologist on staff with very sophisticated equipment; we can monitor that and a lot of times we get lucky and we don’t get hit with thunderstorms.”

#Lightning strike at the PGA TOUR Championship this afternoon in Atlanta. 6 injured pic.twitter.com/eWH9HtZ5dt

Dangerous situation at East Lake @Fedex Cup Finals. Four people hit by lightning. Six total taken to the hospital. PGA Tour reports that none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening. Always take cover ! pic.twitter.com/ZEAyB8HIWf

Russell was asked by a reporter if moving tee times forward would have been a better means of mitigating safety risks of bad weather, rather than “dealing with luck”.

“I think if we did that every time we had a possibility of thunderstorms in the southeast (of the US) we’d (have to) do that basically every time we played golf,” Russell said.

Tyler Dennis, a senior vice president of competitions for the PGA Tour, said: “We have a professional meteorologist that’s on site every week on all of our tours, forecasting the weather.

“The safety that goes along with it … is critical to us. When it comes down to suspension of play … we don’t leave any room for error there. Safety is a huge priority for us.”

Multiple injuries being reported at the @PGATOUR Championship in #Atlanta today after lightning struck a tree. Thoughts & prayers with these folks. 😳⚡️😢 (Not my photos) pic.twitter.com/yqB7CmRLlr

Like @TimBuckleyWX @tkweather and @CMorganWX always say, don't take mother nature lightly!

Look at this insane shot of this lightning strike at the @PGATOUR Championship, injuring 5 people nearby. Fortunately the injuries aren't life threatening.

Wow. pic.twitter.com/1B4zSMtkNR

A statement from the PGA Tour was issued shortly after the six injured fans were taken to hospital.

“At 4:45pm, there were two lightning strikes at East Lake Golf Club; a tree near the range/15 green/16 tee was hit, and debris from that strike injured four people,” a statement from the US PGA Tour read.

“EMT tended to those fans and two others immediately and transported them from the property via ambulance for further medical attention. Our latest report is that their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

“The safety of our fans, players and partners is of the utmost importance. We will provide further updates as they becomeavailable.”

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Aussie Jason Day loses playoff against Billy Horschel after three-putt at Byron Nelson

JASON Day lost his sudden death playoff against American Billy Horschel with a disappointing three-putt at the Byron Nelson PGA tournament.

World No.4 Day failed to match Horschel’s par at the first playoff hole, missing his four-foot second putt as his rival claimed his fourth PGA tour victory. Earlier, Day shot a two-under par 68 final round to tie with Horschel (69) at 12-under.

He had claimed the outright lead when he chipped in on the 15th hole and he missed a birdie putt for victory on the 18th.

Playing the tournament that provided the first of his 10 tour victories back in 2010, former world No.1 Day was seeking his first win since last year’s Players Championship..

His runner-up result represents a return to better form after struggling with injury and his mother’s illness, with his previous best outing in 2017 a tie for fifth at Pebble Beach back in February.

World No.76 Horschel admitted he had been struggling before this win.

“This is the most emotional of all the four (wins),” he told Sky Sports.

“The other three I was playing well going into them and this one I wasn’t, I can’t lie, I didn’t have any success.

“Jason didn’t have his best game out there, and I know I didn’t, but we both battled.

“This is what I know of myself. I am as good as the top players in the world.

“Do I have as much talent as Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlory? No. But I try to get everything out of my game that I can and if I can do that I can compete with these guys.”

Jason Day of Australia reacts to after missing on his birdie-attempt on the 18th green.Source:AP

Joint overnight leader James Hahn finished one shot back in third place ofter a 69.

Australian John Senden attended the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Sunday with his 13-year-old son, who has a brain tumor. Senden has been on leave from the PGA Tour since withdrawing from the PGA Zurich Classic of New Orleans three weeks ago after learning of Jacob Senden’s diagnosis.

Players this week wore patches on their caps resembling a Rubik’s Cube, which is Jacob’s favorite toy. Day wore one of those patches while playing in the final group.

Among the other Australians playing Sunday was Rod Pampling. Senden had been set to partner with him at the Zurich team event.

Billy Horschel, left, and Jason Day, right, shake hands after their playoff.Source:AP

Originally published asHeartbreak for Day after three-putt shocker

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BMW PGA: Tyrrell Hatton hopes hoodies will be accepted, not sneered at by golf ‘snobs’

Tyrrell Hatton admitted his hoodies have “split opinions” among golf fans, but there is no disputing his talent as he jumped into a three-shot lead at Wentworth.

Hatton’s hoodies have prompted debate on acceptable dress codes throughout the BMW PGA Championship, and he was stunned by the huge reaction on social media when his sponsors made 10 tops available from him to give away to 10 of his followers on Twitter.

The leader’s offer has generated almost 12,000 responses, and he insisted that his bold choice of clothing style should be embraced rather then sneered at by “snobby” golf clubs and traditionalists.

“I was going to give out 10 of these to 10 of my followers,” said Hatton, who birdied the 18th for the third day running to cap a three-under 69 and lift him three clear of the chasing pack on 14 under.

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“When I woke up this morning and saw something like 9,500 replies on Twitter … I wonder how many it is now at the end of this round? But the hoodies look good and there’s no reason why there should be an issue with it.

“It’s interesting, obviously it creates a bit of debate. People are split, they don’t know if they like it or not, but I think it’s a cool thing that people are talking about it, should be open to the idea of creating a more open kind of sport rather than being kind of snobby.

“I think you need to move on from that. It’s comfortable when you play golf in it and it looks good, then I don’t see an issue. I actually love them. I mean, they are so nice to swing in. It’s not like jumpers from back in the day where there’s no movement. They are so stretchy and keep you really warm, so on days like this, it’s perfect.”

When he turned his attention back to the job in hand, Hatton insisted he was fully aware of the need to remain patient on the final day, an asset that served him well throughout the third round.

“I just know I’ve got to stay patient, even if guys get off to a really hot start and I don’t,” said Hatton, who turns 29 on Wednesday. “There are so many opportunities out there if you play well, and I just have to allow myself to give myself opportunities to do that. Just have to stay in the moment and see how it plays out.

“That’s one of the things about Wentworth. You know you’re going to have opportunities towards the end of the round. You’ve just got to try and stay patient, which is obviously normally a struggle for me. I feel like I’ve done that pretty well so far this week, and tomorrow is going to be no different. Just got to stay patient and see how we get on.

“I’ve been in this position before and gone on to win tournaments. I’ve been in this position before and not won the tournament. It’s so hard to win tournaments in golf. When it’s your week, obviously everything falls into place.

“Winning here would be really special. It’s kind of a career goal for me to win this event. Being here as a five-year-old and now being inside the ropes is pretty cool. Hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”

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Francesco Molinari keeping expectations realistic as he prepares for first start since March

Francesco Molinari does not regret putting his family ahead of his career as he prepares to make his long-awaited return to competitive golf this week.

Molinari put his career on hold over the summer and has relocated from London to southern California with his wife and children, a move he admits was made more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Italian conceded he is unlikely to be fully prepared for the Masters next month due to how little golf he has played since his last start in a professional event, which lasted only 18 holes as The Players Championship was cancelled after the first round in March.

The 37-year-old was ranked sixth in the world shortly after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March last year, but his ranking has plummeted to 73rd as he gets ready to return to action at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

“The situation with COVID kind of made us think about our set-up, and when it happened I was over here in Florida, my wife was in London and both our of families were in Italy,” Molinari said. “So you ask yourself a few questions, and we just decided to make the move.

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“Obviously it’s not an easy thing to do in general, and it’s even harder to do in these circumstances, but we’re now happy to be here. We’re probably not settled yet; we flew over in mid-July and spent some time in San Francesco but in the end decided to move down to Los Angeles.

“I would say not only in career-wise, it’s obviously more of a family decision in the end, a life decision. When my wife and I moved to London 12 or 13 years ago, obviously we had no kids. It’s a bit different when you do before kids. Now there are a lot more moving parts, I guess.

“But I think it’s worth a shot. I want to try and achieve as many things as possible in let’s say the second part of my career. My wife is supportive of that, and obviously she’s probably the one I guess in the toughest spot because she’s even further away from her family and friends.”

Molinari also revealed he was in San Francisco when the PGA Championship was being played at TPC Harding Park, although he was taking his children to the zoo rather than competing for a second major title.

He intends to play the Houston Open and then the Masters the following week, although he will have low expectations when he gets to Augusta National and feels that could be his final appearance of the year.

“I’ve been playing probably as little golf as ever in my life,” he added. “I was practising in London before the move, and then I took a break when we physically moved over. That’s why I’m saying I’ve got pretty low expectations for this week. I’m definitely far away from where I want to be physically, mentally, technically in the long-term.

“But it’s nice to be back and it’s the start of the process, I guess. I’m looking forward to playing a lot more golf in the coming weeks.”

And, asked he believed he will be 100 per cent ready for the Masters, he said: “I don’t know, we have to see. I think, no, to be honest. Probably I will need an extra month or so. My goal mentally really is to be 100 per cent for January next year. Anything that comes before then in this period of time, it’s kind of a bonus.

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“I don’t know, it’s all new for me. Luckily I’ve never had injuries or big injuries in my career so I never had such a long break from the game, so it’s all kind of new and exciting. This week obviously going to be pretty important to see how I react under pressure after such a long break. It will kind of dictate what I do between now and Augusta.

“But I’m not expecting to be 100 per cent ready for Augusta, no.

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2021 Latin America Amateur Championship cancelled due to coronavirus complications

The Latin America Amateur Championship scheduled for January has been cancelled, it has been announced.

The tournament has developed into one of the biggest events in the amateur game since its inception in 2014, with each champion earning an invite to the Masters and The Open Championship.

Joaquin Niemann was a notable winner of the 2018 LAAC and has since established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the PGA Tour, winning his first professional title at The Greenbrier a year ago before making his debut in The Internationals team at the Presidents Cup in Australia.

The seventh edition of the LAAC was due to be held at Lima Golf Club in Peru, a 72-hole stroke play event starting on January 14, but the tournament has now been called off “due to complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

A statement read: “The 2021 Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC), conducted by the USGA, The R&A and the Masters Tournament, was scheduled to be played January 14-17, 2021, at Lima Golf Club in Lima, Peru. Future championship plans will be announced at a later date.

“Founded in 2014 by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA, the LAAC was established to further develop amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The event annually moves to top courses throughout Latin America and showcases the sport’s rising talent in the region.

“Notable alumni of the championship include 2018 LAAC champion Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia and 2019 champion Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico. Last year, Ortiz became the first player from Mexico to compete in the Masters since 1979, finishing as the Low Amateur Runner-Up.

“The champion of the LAAC receives an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament, The Open Championship, The Amateur Championship, the US Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.”

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