What you missed: DJ's milestone win, an LPGA Tour rules controversy, DeChambeau's outburst and Tiger's impressive shot

Published:

What you missed: DJ's milestone win, an LPGA Tour rules controversy, DeChambeau's outburst and Tiger's impressive shot

Dustin Johnson became just the 38th player to win 20 PGA Tour titles with victory at the WGC Mexico Championship on Sunday, while Martin Trainer earned the spoils at the PGA Tour's other event - the Puerto Rico Open. 

In addition to victories there was plenty of controversy this week: From backstopping drama on the LPGA Tour to DeChambeau's apology for his outburst on the greens, Fowler's criticism of the new dropping rules and the arrest of Jessica Korda's long-time boyfriend Johnny Delprete. 

Plus, Paul Casey's caddie makes a blunder and a vintage Tiger Woods shot. 

Here's what you missed,

Dustin Johnson wins 20th PGA Tour title at WGC Mexico Championship

There was only ever one man on top in Mexico as Dustin Johnson became the 38th player to reach 20 wins in the history of the PGA TOUR, and continued his streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least one victory.

"It means a lot, to get 20 wins out here is very difficult," said Johnson. "To do it before I turn 35 is pretty incredible. This is a big win for me, it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. I feel like the game is in good form right now."

He began the final round with a four-shot lead over the strongest field of the year so far, and despite an early two-shot swing in favour of nearest challenger Rory McIlroy, Johnson never seemed in danger of losing the top spot as he fired a final round five-under 66 at Club de Golf Chapultepec. 

dustin

"Today was a big day. I knew Rory was going to be coming at me pretty good, I knew I had to have a good round if I wanted to win. The front nine I made some really nice saves which kept the momentum going."

The pivotal moments came early on in the round, as both players experienced two bizarrely similar occurrences on consecutive holes.

McIlroy had piled the pressure on early with a birdie on the second hole to DJ's bogey, but had given back a shot at the next as he missed from 5 feet for par.  

With the gap at three shots, Dustin Johnson’s momentum looked to have momentarily stalled as his ball nestled up against a tree on the fifth hole, but fortune would end up favouring the leader. Arguing that his stance was affected by a cart path, he was judged to be able to gain free relief and walked off with an improbable par to keep ahead by the same margin.

On the very next hole Rory McIlroy encountered an almost identical situation (albeit a little further in to the trees), but the referee felt he didn’t have the same issues with the his stance on the cart-path as he DJ did, and he was forced to hack out left handed. McIlroy then decided to take his next shot on but found the water, and with a Johnson birdie the gap suddenly widened to five shots.  

By the 11th hole a birdie from the leader increased his advantage to six shots, and posted four other gains on the back nine to earn a five-shot victory over McIlroy as he claimed his second WGC Mexico Championship title in just three starts at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Full story here

Martin Trainer earns first PGA Tour title at Puerto Rico Open

PGA Tour rookie Martin Trainer fired a final round 67 to win his maiden title at the Puerto Rico Open by three shots. 

Martin Trainer didn't even have a Web.Com Tour card when he came through a play-off in Monday qualifying for the El Bosque Mexico Championship in March last year, but he went on to win - the first of two Web.Com Tour titles in 2018.

Since then he has become a PGA Tour rookie, but with a sole top 50 (T28 at Pebble Beach) and making just three cuts to brag about in nine starts this season, it was understandable that many underestimated him, or simply hadn't heard of him. That is until he shot a five-under-par 67 on Sunday to claim his first PGA Tour title at the Puerto Rico Open.

trainer

"I never thought that I would be able to win on the PGA TOUR," said Trainer. "I managed to do it today and that's just incredible.

"The players are so good, they're the best in the world. And I was able to, I guess, prove that I belonged today."

His victory, which saw him beat out well known figures such as Daniel Berger, Aaron Baddeley and Charl Schwartzel, guarantees French-born Trainer PGA Tour exemption status for tournaments such as The Players - in addition to 300 FedEx Cup Points.

"I never had the luxury of making a plan... I was just trying to play as many events as I could," said Trainer of the bonus of having freedom to organise his schedule thanks to his win. "So now I guess that will be a little different, I'll be able to pick and choose where I want to go and have a little more flexibility with my schedule. It's just such a great feeling to be able to have that.

It was Baddeley who held the overnight lead but he struggled to a two-over front nine as a quick start from Trainer gave him three birdies in his opening five holes. Back-to-back bogeys from the 6th momentarily stalled his momentum but two birdies from the 9th put him firmly back in position.

Daniel Berger put together a round of the day 66 but still lay in the group three shots adrift, and with a further birdie on the 15th, Trainer was able to enjoy the walk up the 18th with the knowledge the title was his, yet still got up and down from the greenside bunker for a final birdie of the day to get to 15-under-par for the tournament.

Amy Yang wins third Honda LPGA Thailand title

Amy Yang claimed her third Hona LPGA Thailand title at Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course, on Sunday, having won each victory two years apart. 

"I was honestly very nervous," said Yang, "especially last three holes. It was tough hole to finish. I was really telling myself (to) just be patient, do (my) best at the time."

South Korea's Yang, 29, opened up with a birdie and rebounded with a bogey on the third with five consecutive gains from the fourth hole to post a front-nine 31. 

Delays in the middle of the round failed to deter Yang. Having dropped a shot on the 14th to fall back in to a tie with Carlotta Ciganda and Minjee Lee, Yang went on to birdie the par-three 16th from the fringe to pull back in front. 

Lee then missed a 14-foot putt for eagle to force a play-off on the 72nd hole as Yang made a final hole birdie to ensure his third victory in Thailand with a 7-under 65 to end up 22-under-par. 

Yang shared the lead with Carlota Ciganda and Lee with three holes to play. A birdie from the fringe on the par-3 16th allowed Yang to regain the lead.

“I really fought out there,” said Lee. “Just tried to make as many birdies as I could. Probably didn’t play probably 15 and 16 the way I wanted to, but I think overall I had a pretty solid performance.”

amy yang

LPGA Backstopping debate: Should there have been a penalty?

Dominating the headlines last week was a blatant backstopping incident on the LPGA Tour between Ariya Jutanugarn and Amy Olson during the second round of the Honda Thailand event.

Jutanugarn played her shot to within a foot of the hole and was about to go up to mark it when Olson made a signal to her playing partner, and Jutanugarn left the ball unmarked. Olson then played her shot and her ball hit Jutanugarn’s, leaving it closer to the hole than it would have ended up, and the two celebrated.

Why is it a big deal? The main issue surrounds the integrity of the game: by doing it to help out another player in your group get a better chance at scoring it can be deemed unfair to the rest of the field, and if it’s done intentionally, it’s also against the rules.

Under the rule 15.3, it states that ‘if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help any player, and the stroke is made with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed.’


Prior to the third round, the LPGA deemed that the players had not breached the rule as the backstopping hadn’t been intentional.

“After speaking with Amy Olson and Ariya Jutanugarn, the LPGA rules committee determined that there was no breach of Rule 15.3a,” the LPGA said in a statement. “There was no agreement by either player to leave Jutanugarn’s ball in place to help Olson’s next stroke. An LPGA Rules Official was approaching the 18th green at the time and agreed that no breach had occurred.”

“Rule 15.3a clearly states that for a breach to occur, that two or more players must agree to leave a ball in place to help any player on her next stroke,” the LPGA said in its statement. “This was not the case between Olson and Jutanugarn.”

Olson later claimed that she had no knowledge of backstopping and it was not her intention, rather that she was motivated by pace of play as they had already endured length waits on the final hole and fellow playing partner Michelle Wie was awaiting a ruling.

“All about context,” Olson said. “Ariya and I went before Michelle even though she was out. Ariya’s ball was not in my intended line, and to help move things along, I told her it was fine [not to mark].

“I had never even heard of the backstopping issue, as I don’t really watch PGA Tour golf that much, and it hasn’t really been an issue on the LPGA.  Obviously, with everything that has gone down, I think we all, especially me, will be more conscious of it, and I will have everyone mark anything remotely close to the hole now.”

Consider that a lesson learned.

Bryson DeChambeau apologises after angry outburst that captures him damaging green

Speaking of lessons learned, we imagine Bryson DeChambeau won’t be taking out his post-round frustrations on any greens in the future – or at least not when the cameras are rolling. The five-time PGA Tour winner was picked up by Sky Sports’ cameras damaging a green at the WGC Mexico Championship after a disappointing first-round , slamming his putter in to the surface behind Rich Beem.

It was the second time in as many weeks DeChambeau has been caught causing damage to the course and practice area, having been captured slamming his club in to a bunker face during the Genesis Open.

“I want to apologise to my fans, fellow players and the staff at Chapultepec for my actions following the round yesterday,” DeChambeau said. “I am an extremely passionate player and I am always working on ways to be better. I am certainly not perfect but I respect the grounds staff and the game of golf and am focused on working harder on this just like I do on my golf game.”

And while he had apologised, Eddie Pepperell couldn’t help but poke fun at the situation when he clocked that the cameras were on him, staging his own fake tantrum on the green.

Vintage Tiger is shot of the week 

During the WGC Mexico Championship Tiger Woods produced the shot of the week with a nine-iron from a bunker on his final hole during his second round. 

Woods had just 130 yards to par-four ninth hole but his route to the green was blocked by a large tree, and the ball partially buried. He was forced him to club down to a nine-iron and slice it around the obstacle, nearly holing out with his efforts.

“The ball was sitting down just enough where I didn’t think I could clear that tree,” he said. “I also had 130 yards, but it’s hard to get it up when the ball’s sitting down like that. So I went back to try to cut it with an eight iron, then I realised that’s going to come out too hot; it’s going to miss the slope.

“I ended up going back to the nine iron and realised, ‘Jeez, I’ve really got to slice this thing’. So I opened up and gave it as much of a cut motion as I possibly could, and it worked out.”

Paul Casey's caddie reads from the wrong pin sheet

Paul Casey was three-under for his first three holes on Saturday when his caddie noticed that he'd been giving him the pin positions for the PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico that week.  

His playing partner Lee Westwood brought the faux-pas to the attention of twitter, to much hilarity. 

It didn't seem to do any damage though, as Casey went on to shoot the first of back-to-back 65s to end up T3 with Ian Poulter and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

"Small shout out today to caddie . -3 after 3 holes and then realised he was giving Paul the pin positions for the event that’s happening in Puerto Rico! Nice one Johnny!"

Rickie Fowler sounds off on new rules 

Rickie Fowler fell foul of one of the most notable new rule changes during the WGC Mexico Championship on Friday.

Having shanked his ball out of bounds on the 10th hole, Fowler hastily redropped his ball (from shoulder height) while his caddie was rearranging something in his golf bag, forgetting that he was required to drop from knee height under the new rules.

He played his next shot, and uncertainty soon followed about the ruling after one of the on-course commentators informed his playing partner Patrick Reed that the drop had been picked up by cameras, who then let Rickie know what he had done. 

It cost him a penalty shot en route to a triple bogey, and Fowler later said he didn't feel the new rules were doing the sport any favours. 

"It's on me. I took the shot. It was no big deal," Fowler said. "But I think with the new rules that have been put in place, it's not doing any favors for our sport.

Referencing the knee-height drop, Fowler called it a 'terrible' rule, adding, "I definitely think it will get changed."

Rory McIlroy to miss Irish Open as he puts focus on Portrush

Rory McIlroy said earlier in the week that winning The Open Championship at Portrush is more important for him than completing the career Grand Slam at Augusta, stating that it would be 'the biggest achievement of his career'. 

Speaking to BBC Sport Northern Ireland's Stephen Watson at the WGC Mexico, McIlroy said that if he 'could pick one tournament to win this year, it would be Portrush,' while also adding that it is the reason why he has decided to skip the 2019 Irish Open.

"I would definitely leave Augusta on the backburner and say if I could win at Portrush, win The Open Championship, lift the Claret Jug there, that would be... I'm trying not to think about it, because I think I would get over excited, 

Asked if it would be the biggest thing he could achieve in his career, McIlroy replied '100 percent'. 

"I never thought I'd play a major at home in Northern Ireland, so yeah I think, it would be the biggest achievement of my career, if I were able to do that."

It's the reason why McIlroy has decided to forgo the Irish Open this year.

“If there’s ever a year where I feel like I can miss the Irish Open, it’s this year. It’s a perfect storm. The Open’s at Portrush, if I were to play the Irish Open the Open Championship would be my third event in a row and for me personally that’s not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life.

"I want to give myself the best chance to win The Open Championship, and that’s not discrediting and that’s not belittling the Irish Open in any way but if I want to give myself the best chance of winning The Open Championship I want to play the week before to get tuned up on a links course and then I want to go straight in to The Open.

mcilroy

“That third week is just a little too much for me. I love the Irish Open, I’ve supported it my whole career, but if there is any year to miss the Irish Open it is this one and I hope people will understand because I’m not doing it for any other reason than I think it gives me the best chance of winning The Open Championship.”

He did however confirm that despite previous reports he will be taking up European Tour membership this year. Read full story here. 

Steve Stricker named 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain 

The USA Ryder Cup Team took to social media to officially unveil Stricker as the 2020 Captain for the contest at Whistling Straits, who called the appointment 'an honour' - and he's already made a BIG change. 

"So honoured to be the 2020 U.S Ryder Cup Captain in my home state of Wisconsin," he said in the shared post. "Let's go try to win that cup back. Go USA" 

"In our sport, there is no greater honour than to Captain the United States Ryder Cup team," he continued in his press conference. 

“Truly a dream come true, an honour to represent the PGA, the competition itself, truly humbled by this opportunity because I’m very passionate about this competition. 

steve stricker

“Some people don’t think I’m very fiery about playing the game of golf but deep down I’m very competitive, we want to win this more than ever and I’m here to help in any way.”

Stricker didn't waste any time in confirming that he's making a big change to the U.S Ryder Cup team selection process, deciding to abolish the separate, final Captain's pick, which was dubbed the 'Billy Horschel rule' back in 2014. 

The rule came about because Horschel, who finished well outside qualification, finished second at TPC Boston, won the BMW Championship and then won again at the Tour Championship in 2014. The picks were made before the Tour Championship and therefore Horschel had been left out, so the rules were changed from 2016 onwards to allow a final pick to be made after the Tour Championship. 

But not any more. After just two instances of that new rule (used to pick Ryan Moore in 2016 and Tony Finau in 2018), Stricker has decided to get rid of it, announcing he will make all four Captain's picks at the same time three weeks before the competition. Europe also make all four picks at the same time. Read full story here 

Former Web.Com Tour Pro arrested 

Former pro golfer Johnny DelPrete, who played on the Web.com Tour and is the long-time boyfriend of LPGA Tour star Jessica Korda, was arrested in Florida on Friday. 

According to Golfweek and booking records from the Martin County Sheriff's office, DelPrete was charged with soliciting prostitution as part of the same human trafficking investigation in Florida that also charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

DelPrete competed in eight Web.Com Tour events between 2012 and 2014, making just one cut, and has also served as caddie for Korda on occasion. He quit golf in May 2017 and now works in property. 

He has not yet provided a comment, and was released on the same day for a $2,500 bond.