Welcome to the March Pro Golf Wrap-Up – everything you need to know in the world of golf expertly curated by your friends at Global Golf Management.
Golf in March had its own brand of madness, particularly in the form of the career comeback. The March hair-raising results were quite the sight.
Phil Mickelson and Michelle Wie ended victory droughts of significant length to begin the month – winning on the same day and in similar fashion, with exciting and clutch golf down the stretch. A few weeks later, again on the same day, Rory McIlroy and Inbee Park got back on track with wins after tough 2017 campaigns. And England’s Paul Casey got in on the same action with his own career renewal.
A sizzling final-round 64 at Bay Hill Club gave Rory McIlroy a three-stroke win over Bryson DeChambeau in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard in Orlando, Fla. McIlroy birdied five of his last six holes to claim his 14th PGA TOUR title, joining Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as the only players with as many tour wins before the age of 30.
Woods, continuing his career comeback from back surgery, had a chance to win, but no one was going to catch McIlroy down the stretch as he blew past third-round leader Henrik Stenson to finish at 18-under 270.
McIlroy missed the cut the previous week at the Valspar Championship in nearby Palm Harbor, Fla., and he said the time off did him some good. While he was away, Woods almost won at Innisbrook Resort, but again was foiled by a hot final round by a European player, this time 40-year-old Paul Casey.
Casey closed with a 6-under 65 and won the Valspar Championship, but only after watching from the locker room as Tiger Woods came up one putt short of forcing a playoff. It was the closest Woods has come to winning in nearly five years.
Casey, who started the final round five shots behind, ran off three straight birdies early on the back nine at Innisbrook to take the lead, and he closed with four par saves to post at 10-under 274.
The month ended on the PGA TOUR the way the previous month had, with Bubba Watson in the winner’s circle. The powerful left-hander, who captured the Genesis Open in February, won his second World Golf Championship and 11th career PGA TOUR title at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.
Along the way, Watson defeated world No. 2 Justin Thomas in the semifinals and then waltzed to an 8-6 victory over Kevin Kisner in the final. He pocketed $1.7 million and set himself up for a monster season after going winless in 2017 – just like McIlroy.
The LPGA kept the comeback theme going, starting with Michelle Wie at the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore. Wie won her first title since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, rallying from five strokes behind Nelly Korda at the start of the day to claim her fifth career LPGA victory.
“There is no better feeling than when you sink that winning putt,” said Wie, who finished the day with a bogey-free 65 and the tournament with a 17-under 271. “It’s a high, for sure. You go out there, and it’s this feeling that gets you going. It’s this feeling that makes you practice. It’s that winning putt that makes you practice for hours and hours and hours, and even the hard times, it gets you going back. You know that good feeling is on the other side.”
Laura Davies was trying to win her first event since 2001, but instead Inbee Park captured the Bank of Hope Founders Classic for her 19th LPGA victory. Park beat Davies, 54 years old and Arijya Jutanugarn and Marina Alex by five shots at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.
Park, coming off an injury-plagued year, shot a final-round 67 to finish at 19-under 269.
Eun-Hee Ji registered quite an exciting victory in the LPGA Kia Classic, firing a final round 54-under 67 that included a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th hole to pull away for a two-stroke victory over Cristi Kerr and Lizette Salas at Aviara Golf Club in Phoenix.
She won two cars, one for the ace, one for the win after finishing at 16-under 272. Ji’s ace came with a 7-iron from 166 yards that gave her a three-stroke lead, and she held on from there for her fourth LPGA win and second in her last four starts.
Finally, we don’t usually mention the PGA TOUR Champions, but we’ll make one brief exception here because Steve Stricker’s victory in the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Ariz., was his first win on the over-50 circuit and his first win of any kind since 2012 – fitting nicely into the comeback theme. Stricker must have liked the feeling; he went on to win a second senior title in a row later in the month in Biloxi, Miss., at the Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Stay tuned here and on Global Golf Management Twitter for next month’s Pro Golf Wrap-Up.