Tiger back, no stopping Miguel, Morikawa power: golf talking points
Hong Kong — A couple of comebacks and the continued emergence of a bright young star feature in AFP Sport’s golf talking points for this week.
When Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf for the first time in five months at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament on Thursday, he will do so in exalted company.
Woods will tee off alongside world No 1 Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka in an eye-catching threeball for the first two rounds at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
Woods needs a sixth victory at the event he last won in 2012 to become the most successful golfer in PGA Tour history, having tied Sam Snead’s record 82 wins at October’s Zozo Championship in Japan.
The 15-time Major winner last played competitively at the Genesis Invitational in February, finishing 68th.
Without Woods since the tour’s return from Covid-19 lockdown, the buzz has been all about Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa, winners of the last two events, and they will go out together alongside defending champion Patrick Cantlay on Thursday.
Big-hitting DeChambeau, the 2018 Memorial champion, is favourite with the bookmakers at 10-1. Woods is priced at a tempting-looking 25-1. The bookies should note that the last time Woods returned from an enforced layoff, at the Zozo after a 10-week break for arthroscopic knee surgery, he won.
He might be nearer to 60 than 50 but Miguel Angel Jimenez proved he was still one to watch when the European Tour made a low-key return last week. At the Austrian Open, an event shared with the second-tier Challenge Tour, the 56-year-old rolled back the years to shoot his lowest score since the 2018 Italian Open, a seven-under-par 65 in the second round.
It put the Spaniard into the lead, and he finished tied eighth to record his first top 10 since the 2017 Hong Kong Open.
Jimenez has already set the record for the oldest winner on the European Tour three times. He threatened it again at the Diamond Country Club near Vienna, an event won by Scotland’s Marc Warren.
Jimenez won the 2012 Hong Kong Open at the age of 48 years, 307 days, before successfully defending it a year later when 49 years and 337 days old. Not content with that, he won the 2014 Open de Espana for his 21st title at 50 years, 133 days.
The European Tour remains in Austria this week before moving to Britain for the first of six full-field events starting with the British Masters in Newcastle.
Collin Morikawa turned pro only 13 months ago, but he won for the first time on the US PGA Tour at the Barracuda Championship just eight weeks later and has been so consistent that he now has more wins than missed cuts.
His second tournament victory came at the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield on Sunday where he won a nail-biting playoff against Justin Thomas on the third extra hole. His reward is a huge jump in the world rankings from 29th to 13th, one place above Tiger Woods, and he is firmly in the Ryder Cup picture for the next edition at Whistling Straits, now shifted to September 2021.
Morikawa’s only missed cut came two weeks earlier at the Travelers Championship, and a fortnight before that he had the crushing disappointment of seeing a two-foot putt lip out to lose a playoff to Daniel Berger at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
But he recovered in the best possible fashion with his second win. It is noteworthy that the 23-year-old’s streak of 22 successive weekends played to start his professional career is second only to, you’ve guessed it, Woods.
Latest world rankings
1 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 8.75
2 Jon Rahm (ESP) 7.85
3 Justin Thomas (US) 7.67 (+2)
4 Dustin Johnson (US) 7.49 (-1)
5 Webb Simpson (US) 7.13 (-1)
6 Brooks Koepka (US) 6.73
7 Bryson DeChambeau (US) 6.24
8 Patrick Reed (US) 5.85 (+1)
9 Adam Scott (AUS) 5.84 (+1)
10. Patrick Cantlay (US) 5.84 (-2)
11 Xander Schauffele (US) 5.45
12 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.12
13 Collin Morikawa (US) 4.96 (+16)
14 Tiger Woods (US) 4.86
15 Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 4.81
16 Justin Rose (ENG) 4.76 (-3)
17 Marc Leishman (AUS) 4.48 (-1)
18 Gary Woodland (US) 4.31 (+1)
19 Tony Finau (US) 4.29 (-2)
20 Matt Kuchar (US) 4.25 (-2)
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