July Pro Golf Wrap-Up
Presented by Global Golf Management
The busiest month of the calendar saw the crowning of two major champions. Francesco Molinari, arguably the hottest player in the men’s game, won the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links July 22 with an impeccable performance a few weeks after winning the final Quicken Loans National hosted by Tiger Woods.
Meanwhile, at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes, near Chicago, Sung Hyun Park on Sunday, July 1, in a playoff that included So Yeon Ryu and Nasa Hataoka.
Other winners to emerge were Kevin Na at the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Michael Kim at the John Deere Classic, Troy Merritt at the Barbasol Championship, and Dustin Johnson at the RBC Canadian Open, his third win of the season.
In the women’s game, celebrations were enjoyed not only by Park, but also Sei Young Kim at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, Thidapa Suwannapura at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I, and Ariya Jutanugarn in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open
In Carnoustie, Scotland, Molinari played the final round paired with Tiger Woods, who briefly held the lead on the back nine on Sunday. But Molinari shot a final-round 2-under 69 and won his first major championship. He also became the first Italian-born player to win golf’s oldest major.
Seven players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round, but Molinari emerged with the victory at 8-under 276. He did not make a bogey over his final 37 holes to win by two strokes over four players – Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Kisner and Justin Rose.
“Just disbelief, to be honest,” Molinari, 35, said of winning the Claret Jug. “To go the weekend bogey-free, it’s unthinkable. Playing with Tiger was another challenge. But I felt really good this morning. I felt I was ready for the challenge.”
Molinari felt pretty good in the U.S., too, when he shot a record 21-under 259 at TPC Potomac at Avenal Farms to win the Quicken Loans National by eight strokes, tying the largest margin of victory on the PGA Tour this season. Ryan Armour finished a distant second.
“It was a lot easier than I thought,” Molinari said. “I played great. The start of the back nine was incredible.”
Molinari nearly won a third time in July, but Michael Kim, 25, was too much for the Italian star and everyone else in the John Deere Classic. Molinari finished second, but was on the other end of an eight-stroke margin as Kim won his first PGA Tour title by shooting a closing 66 and finishing at 27-under 257 to break Steve Stricker’s tournament record by one shot.
“To be able to finish out in style like this, it means a lot,” said Kim, a native of Korea who lives in Houston. The former Cal standout qualified for his first start in the Open Championship with the victory.
In Nicholasville, Ky., Troy Merritt had to wait until Monday for his second PGA Tour title, but it was worth it when he fired a final-round 5-under 67 and beat Richy Werenski, Tom Lovelady and Billy Horschel by a stroke at Keene Trace Golf Club.
Merritt, who opened the tournament with a course-record 62, finished a 23-under 265, and he secured a two-year PGA Tour exemption after missing 37 cuts since his 2015 win in the Quicken Loans National.
“It’s just so hard to win on the PGA Tour,” he said. “Just knowing that you’re going to have that security for two years, it’s awesome.”
Nine-time LPGA winner Brittany Lincicome competed in the event on a sponsor’s exemption. The reigning two-time winner of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, Lincicome became the seventh woman to compete in a PGA Tour event. She acquitted herself well with a second-round 1-under 71, but didn’t make the cut.
Dustin Johnson wrapped up the month by rebounding from a missed cut at Carnoustie with his 19th career PGA Tour title. The world No. 1 golfer Emerged from a four-way tie after 54 holes with the victory by firing a methodical five-under 66 and posting a 23-under 265 total.
yeong Hun An and Whee Kim, who along with Kevin Tway had a share of the lead at the outset on Sunday, each shot 69 to tie for second three strokes back.
“Yeah, it was definitely a very good win. I’m very proud of the way I played today,” Johnson, 34, said after joining Bubba Watson as a three-time winner this year. “I knew I was going to have to go out and play really well. There were a lot of guys, a lot of really good players right around the lead, within a couple shots of the lead.
The big win in the women’s game in July was secured by Sung Hyun Park, who birdied the second playoff hole from 15 feet to beat So Yeon Ryu and capture the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, Ill.
Park broke down in tears immediately securing the victory over her compatriot and 19-year-old Nasa Hataoka, who closed with a 64 on Sunday and tied Ryu and Park at 10-under 278. Ryu led Brooke Henderson by three shots and Park by four entering the final round, but shot a 73. Park had a 69. Ryu and Park birdied the first playoff hole while Hataoka only made par to be eliminated.
“Actually, this is my first time feeling like this kind of emotion, like being this emotional,” Park explained after the round, “and I was really happy.”
In Oneida, Wis., Sei Young Kim, 24, of Korea, put on an amazing performance at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, smashing the LPGA 72-hole scoring record with a 31-under par total. Kim fired a final-round 7-under par 65 on the Thornberry Course for a 9-stroke win over Carlota Ciganda.
Kim’s 257 total broke the LPGA’s 72-hole scoring record in relation to par of 27-under, first set by Swedish great Annika Sorenstam in 2001 and which Kim match in 2016 at the Founders Cup. She also broke the record for fewest strokes over 72 holes of 258, achieved by Karen Stupples in 2004 and matched by Angela Stanford and Park Hee-Young in 2013.
“I really feel, like, unreal,” Kim said. “I never thought about shooting, like, 31-under. I really feel incredible.”
The following week, in Sylvania, Ohio, Thidapa Suwannapura defeated veteran Brittany Lincicome in a playoff to win the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I for her first LPGA victory.
Suwannapura birdied her final two holes for a 6-under 65 at Highland Meadows Golf Club and finished 72 holes in 14-under 270. Lincicome had a closing 67, while third-round leader Brooke Henderson shot 69 and missed the playoff by a stroke. Suwannapura won the tournament with a birdie on the first extra hole, the par-5 18th, while Lincicome, after hitting into the water on her second shot, made a par.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a while, and I didn’t think it was going to happen today,” Suwannapura, 25, of Thailand, said. “I just kept trying my best and hopefully it (works) out, and today is the day.”
Finally, Ariya Jutanugarn regained the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings with a one-stroke victory over Minjee Lee in the Aberdeen Assets Management Ladies Scottish Open in East Lothian, Scotland. Jutanugarn, 22, shot a closing 5-under 65 at Gullane Golf Club and ended up at 13-under 267 to win her 10thLPGA title.