Believe it or not, the PGA Tour played last week. In a jam-packed weekend of the NFL, college football and the NBA playoffs, it was easy to forget about the golf world, but it rolled on nevertheless. The Tour headed south after the US Open, with few stars in tow, to the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana saw the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship at Corales Golf Course, but the biggest golf action of the week was off Tour. Tiger Woods opened a brand new public golf course with a host of stars in a small team tournament. So despite the lack of fanfare, it was actually a pretty busy week. With that, let’s look back at the past week in golf and forward to see what’s to come.
Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship
Usually, the week after the US Open is a trip to Cromwell, CT for the best golfer’s in the world. A group of stars usually show up, and sometimes, there’s moments that go down in history.
This year things are a little different, obviously. The Travelers Championship was played its normal summer weekend, so the Tour headed to the Dominican Republic after America’s championship. Despite the lack of star power, there was still plenty of excitement, as Hudson Swafford won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, his second career PGA Tour win.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Swafford, though, as Tyler McCumber was breathing down his neck the final day. A double bogey on 13 and a bogey on 15 for Swafford put his top position in doubt, but a birdie on the par three 17th hole put the tournament to rest.
Despite the relatively small purse for the tournament, Swafford took home $720,000 in prize money, with McCumber making $436,000. Not bad for a week’s work. Mackenzie Hughes and Nate Lashley followed them up in third and fourth, respectively. Adam Long rounded out the top five, but it was a disappointing finish for him. He led at the end of Saturday, after a Friday 65 and Saturday 64. He let himself down Sunday, though, finishing with a 75 and dropping four spots on the leaderboard.
Tiger Watch: Exhibition Tournament Edition
Instead of enjoying the sun in the Dominican, Tiger Woods was opening up his new course, Payne’s Valley Golf Course, in the Ozarks with an exhibition tournament. Tiger teamed up with Justin Thomas to take on the European pair of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. Not to be too much of a Tiger lover, but the course was excellent. A lovely combination of challenge and fun, all with the Ozark Mountains in the background. The Missouri course, which officially opened Thursday and is open to the public, costs $225 for 18 holes.
As for the golf, it was a fun, if non-traditional, tournament. The Americans took on the Europeans, perhaps as a Ryder Cup fill-in, as the tournament was supposed to be played around this time. The first six holes were best ball, with the second score breaking ties, the second six was alternate shot and the last seven (yes, seven) holes were singles match play. Each section was worth a point, so the first to 2.5 points out of four would be the winner.
Rose and McIlroy won the first point of the day 2&1, but the Americans bounced back. With a birdie on the driveable par four 12th hole, Tiger and Thomas tied it up. Tiger lost the match play on the final hole, but McIlroy did the same, making the score 2-2. But, the 19th hole had a tiebreaker: closest to the pin, which Justin Thomas won. That pushed the score to 2.5-2 in favor of the Americans.
Speaking of the 19th hole, it was the highlight of the tournament. Officially called “the Big Rock at Payne’s Valley,” it’s a short par three, with the tee built into a mountainside and an island green. The son of Payne Stewart, the legendary Missouri native who the course was named after, was joined by legends Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus on the tee for the final hole. They teed off with the four competitors, with all but Stewart putting it on the green.
The Week Ahead: Sanderson Farms Championship
Next week, the Tour heads to Jackson, Mississippi, for another lower-purse tournament, the Sanderson Farms Championship. Like this week, expect the stars to stay away. The Tour will get back into the full swing come October 15, with the CJ Cup in Vegas. The week after that, they head to Sherwood CC, where a certain someone will be defending his title at the ZOZO Championship.
The term “must-watch” is overused, but this week something came out that truly was must-watch. Here’s a video of 84-year-old Gary Player getting swing tips from 80-year-old Jack Nicklaus at the Payne’s Valley Cup. The legend just want a few more yards, so it looks like nothing changes.
How confusing is the spelling of Punta Cana? The city name is definitely two words, but the tournament has it spelled as Puntacana. Spellcheck is having a nightmare with it. It looks like the resort the tournament was at spells it as one word for some reason. Weird.
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