From victories and a new PGA Tour scoring record to a drug suspension and Brooks Koepka’s injury, here’s what you might have missed over the past week
While most people in the UK were sleeping on Monday morning, the Skins game returned in Japan and came down to the final hole as Jason Day defeated Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Mastuyama ahead of this week’s inaugural ZOZO Championship… but it’s far from the only thing you might have missed.
Less than a day before, Nicolas Colsaerts claimed his first victory in over 7 years during a dramatic finish at Le Golf National, but it wasn’t the only big story of the week on the European Tour. On Friday, Marcel Siem was the one in the spotlight after becoming the second person of the week to suffer a costly rules mix-up that ended up in him disqualifying himself from the tournament.
The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges also turned out to be a PGA Tour event not to miss: Viktor Hovland broke a new PGA Tour scoring record, Phil Mickelson managed to keep his near 26-year run in the World’s top 50 intact, and Justin Thomas beat out Danny Lee to his second CJ Cup title in three years.
In addition to that, World No.1 and defending champion Brooks Koepka reinjured his left knee after slipping on concrete and was forced to withdraw from the CJ Cup to fly home and check it out, which came just a couple of days after he hit headlines for talking down any speculations about a rivalry between him and Rory McIlroy – something the Northern Irishman has now responded to.
Elsewhere, Matt Every was suspended by the PGA Tour for 12 weeks after testing positive for cannabis (which he is legally prescribed to treat a mental health condition), Francesco Molinari announced a split with his caddie, and Mickelson said he is expecting to miss out on his first Presidents Cup team since 1994.
Read on below to catch up with the biggest stories of the past week.
Jason Day claims MGM Resorts The Challenge: Japan Skins with final hole birdie
Jason Day came out on top of a battle between Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Hideki Mastsuyama to win The Challenge, an 18-hole skins game where the four players competed for a total prize fund of $350,000 in Japan.
It went down to the wire under the lights as Jason Day clinched the title with eight skins and $180,000 over the final two holes – including the super-skin worth $100,000 with a birdie at the 18th.
The 12-time PGA Tour winner had entered the final hole with 7 skins ($110,000) and led the way by $41,000 over Woods (5 skins) and McIlroy (4 skins), while Matsuyama was $90,000 behind on $20,000 (1 skin).
With the super skin of $100,000 on the line it was still anyone’s game, but Day made an up and down birdie, and noone else was able to match him.
“It was fun. It’s nice to be able to beat the caliber of player I did today,” Day said after his win.
• Winner: Jason Day (8 skins) – $210k
• T-2: Tiger Woods (5 skins)- $60k
• T-2: Rory McIlroy (4 skins) – $60k
• 4th: Hideki Matsuyama (1 skin) $20k
Nicolas Colsaerts ends 7 year wait for third European Tour title at Amundi Open de France
Nicolas Colsaerts ended a wait of 2,709 days to win the third European Tour title of his career on Sunday during a dramatic finale at the Amundi Open de France.
Le Golf National never fails to provide drama over the closing stretch, and a year on from Alex Noren’s unlikely victory, it was Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who came out on top of a three-way battle between George Coetzee and J.B Hansen to win by one shot.
Colsaerts, who began the day with a three stroke lead, quickly extended that to five after a birdie on the first to Coetzee’s bogey, but costly back-to-back bogeys and a timely birdie run from his playing partner left him two shots behind with six to play.
The 36-year-old soon recovered with a birdie on 13 and an eagle at the par-five 14th to regain a one stroke lead at 14-under, and stayed out ahead by one as all three players made errors over the final stretch: Hansen double-bogeyed the 17th to post the clubhouse lead at 11-under, while Colsaerts made his own double on 15, and Coetzee ended up with a triple-bogey at the same hole to fall back to 10-under.
“It’s very, very special,” said Colsaerts, who parred his way in over the final three holes to win. “The French Open for me is very special because I’m French-speaking.
“I’ve been coming here for I don’t know how many years, it’s been a long road. So many people have supported me over the years, that’s why I get so emotional. I went through up and downs for so many years now.
“We knew the last four holes are always pretty dramatic, I proved it with hitting it in the water on 15. I don’t know what happened on 17 with JB but it was a bit of a surprise when I got on to the green. I thought I was still going to be one behind.”
Justin Thomas wins CJ Cup for second time in three years by two strokes
Justin Thomas claimed his 11th PGA Tour title at Nine Bridges on Sunday with a five-under 67, overcoming a final round battle with Danny Lee in Korea to win on 20-under-par.
Both Thomas and Lee held a share of the lead heading in to the final round and remained locked at the top in to the back nine, but the 26-year-old’s birdie at the 14th to move ahead proved a crucial turning point as Lee’s subsequent dropped shots over the next few holes meant a final-hole birdie secured a two-stroke victory.
“Other than that bogey on 17, I really feel like I did everything I needed to do to win the tournament today,” Thomas said after his win. “It’s very reassuring knowing that I could hit those shots when I needed to the entire day when I felt like the heat was on the whole day.
“It was a very, very tough day. Danny made it extremely difficult. He really made a lot of putts, a lot of unbelievable up and downs to kind of keep me from getting all the momentum.”
Matt Every suspended by PGA Tour for three months after violating drugs policy; admits he was prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition
The PGA Tour released a statement on Friday confirming that Matt Every has been suspended for 12 weeks for ‘a violation of the PGA Tour Conduct Policy for drugs of abuse’”
In response, Every told the Golf Channel that he had tested positive for cannabis, which he has a legal prescription for in Florida.
“I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years,” said Every, who said he has ‘no choice but to accept’ the decision despite his disagreements with it.
“It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription “Z” class drugs nor benzodiazepines. Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body and mind. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.
“I don’t agree with it for many reasons, mainly for my overall well-being, but I’m excited for what lies ahead in my life and career,” Every said.
Every, whose two PGA Tour titles came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2014 and 2015, will be eligible to rejoin the Tour on the 7th January 2020.
Brooks Koepka reinjures his left knee after slipping on wet concrete at CJ Cup
Brooks Koepka only recently revealed that he underwent stem cell treatment on his left knee for a partially torn patella tendon following the Tour Championship, but his return to action was shortlived after reinjuring his knee during the second round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
The World No.1, who had spoken positively about his knee earlier in the week, withdrew prior to the third round and confirmed in a statement that he had aggrivated his injury after slipping on wet concrete.
“During the course of Friday’s round, I slipped on wet concrete aggravating a previous injury to my left knee,” he said in a statement.
“After consulting with my doctor, I have been advised to withdraw from the CJ Cup and head home for further tests. I appreciate everyone’s concerns and support. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.”
The 29-year-old, who won this event last year, opened the tournament with rounds of 69-75 to sit at T51 on level par before pulling out of the tournament.
Viktor Hovland breaks PGA Tour scoring record with 19 consecutive rounds in the 60s
His run may have come to an end in Korea, but Viktor Hovland ensured he has at least one new record to his name following his debut performance at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
The former World No.1 Amateur, who turned professional in June, guaranteed his place in the history books after carding his 19th consecutive round in the 60s on the PGA Tour with a pair of three-under 69s during the first two rounds of The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
Bob Estes previously held the record for the most consectuvie rounds in the 60s on the PGA Tour (since 1983) with 17, but Hovland tied him in the first event of the season at The Greenbrier and has now overtaken the record Estes set in 2001.
“It’s cool,” Hovland said of his new record “Obviously, I would have liked to have maybe higher finishes in the tournaments that I’ve played, but it really goes to show the consistency that I’ve had over the summer.”.
Hovland’s streak began with a 64 in the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and he continued that run through the 3M Open, John Deere Classic, Wyndham Championship and A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
His run came to an end in the third round of the CJ Cup, where he posted a third-round 74. He finished tied for 31st place.
Phil Mickelson keeps World Top 50 streak alive in Korea
Speaking of records, Phil Mickelson managed to keep one of his own alive this week after tying for 31st place with Hovland at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
It means that Mickelson will remain inside the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings for his 1352nd consecutive week in a row – at the precarious position of World No.50.
He’s been inside the World’s top 50 since November 1993.
Two bizarre rules incidents and a LOT (!) of penalty strokes
There’s been some strange and costly rule infringements over the past week. First, Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 (!) penalty strokes at the Senior LPGA Championship for having her caddie line her up on the putting green illegally (Rule 10.2b)
Then, Marcel Siem disqualified himself after just nine holes on the European Tour after incorrectly thinking preferred lies were in place during the first round of the Open de France at Le Golf National.
The German player took the opportunity to lift, clean and replace his ball on five separate occasions in adherance with this, but was soon notified by officials. As a consequence, Siem was told he would incur 10 penalty strokes (two per infringement) for playing the ball from the wrong place, and the 39-year-old decided it was ‘too much’ to continue, therefore disqualifying himself. He was one-over through through nine holes at the time.
Brooks Koepka downplayed any talk of rivalry with Rory McIlroy; McIlroy says ‘what Brooks said wasn’t wrong’
Brooks Koepka didn’t hold back when he was asked about a potential rivalry with Rory McIlroy, who is currently lies second to him in the World Rankings.
“I’m not looking at anybody behind me,” Koepka told the AFP on Wednesday. “I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me and I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry.”
It’s understandable why the comparison has been drawn. Both players won three times on Tour this year, they are just a year apart in age, and have four majors each to their name.
They also found themselves grouped together recently in the final rounds of both the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational and the Tour Championship, and while Koepka convincingly earned his first WGC, it was McIlroy who won the PGA Tour’s final event of the season to claim the $15million reward at East Lake.
For Koepka though, a FedEx Cup and 2019 PGA Tour’s Player of the Year doesn’t equate to a rivalry, because he hasn’t won a major trophy since the PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014.
“I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour,” he said. “So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
“You know if the fans do [call it a rivalry], then that’s on them and it could be fun.
“Look I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”
McIlroy responded to Koepka during an on-course interview during The Challenge: Japan Skins match in Japan.
“What Brooks said wasn’t wrong,” said McIlroy. “He’s been the best player for a couple years, four majors. I don’t think he had to remind me I hadn’t won one in a while, but you know.
“I think if you take what Brooks said out of context, then obviously it can be this big thing that it had become. But Brooks and I are good. We’re good friends. I’ve been really happy for him to see how good he’s played the last couple of years. And I’m sure he’ll continue to do so just like we’re all trying to play as good as we can.”
Francesco Molinari splits with caddie, announces Rose’s former bagman as replacement from next year
Former Open Champion Francesco Molinari is set to team up with Justin Rose’s former caddie Mark Fulcher next year after announcing split with Pello Iguaran.
Their time together included five wins, which includes The Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year – in addition to a 5-0-0 record at the Ryder Cup – but Molinari hasn’t had a top 10 since the Masters, and missed the cut at the Italian Open.
The announcement soon followed, and Molinari said that Jason Hempleman will be on his bag for the remainder of the year until he is joined full time by Fulcher, who spent 11 years by Justin Rose’s side.
“It’s been nearly four seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for,” Molinari tweeted.
“Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.
“We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together.”
Phil Mickelson says he doesn’t deserve Presidents Cup pick
With just a couple of weeks left before Presidents Cup teams are confirmed, Phil Mickelson said he isn’t expecting to be chosen as one of Captain Tiger Woods’ four wildcards.
Speaking during a Press Conference at the CJ Cup, Mickelson – who has made every single one of the past 24 Presidents and Ryder Cup teams – said he feels he hasn’t ‘done enough’ to be chosen.
“I have not played well in the last seven, eight months,” said Mickelson, who has recorded just one top 20 finish (a T18 at the Masters) on the PGA Tour since claiming the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. If he doesn’t play well this week, he could fall outside of the World’s top 50 for the first time since 1993.
“There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team and I have not… even if I were to win (this week), I have not done enough to warrant a pick.
“I’m not asking for one, I don’t expect one. I think there’s a lot better options for the US side.
“I would like to add that I am starting to play much better golf and I’m excited about this upcoming season and I’m excited about making the Ryder Cup team next year and I plan on doing that.”
He finished T31 at the CJ Cup.