The duel between Adam Scott and Cameron Smith to represent Australia at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne in November could go all the way to the Tour Championship after the pair made major moves in the opening week of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
It has been a difficult second half of the season for the two Queenslanders, but both showed significant turnaround in form at the US PGA Championship and carried that into the Northern Trust event at Ridgewood Country Club.
Entering the week ranked 53rd and 73rd, respectively, Smith and Scott are both projected to move to within striking distance of the top-30 in the FedEx Cup countdown after finishing top five shots behind winner Bryson DeChambeau.
Smith could move as high as 37th in the world rankings after a third-round 65 propelled him into a tie for third, his highest finish of the year and first top-10 since the Masters in April.
Scott is projected to make an even more significant leap, up from 73rd to 40th and within reach of a return visit to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the Tour Championship after he ended the week tied for fifth, highlighted by a second round of 64.
Scott leapfrogged Smith in the world rankings after his third-place finish at the PGA Championship at Bellerive and both have expressed their strong desire to represent their country alongside either Jason Day or Marc Leishman later in the year.
Australia’s FedEx Cup frontrunner, Jason Day, is projected to drop two spots to eighth after he finished the week tied for 20th while Marc Leishman could also drop two spots after he was tied for 35th, projected to start the Dell Technologies Championship this week in 24th position.
Perhaps the most courageous performance of the week came from Kiwi Danny Lee.
Starting the week ranked 103rd and in very real danger of missing the cutoff for the 100-strong field for the second playoffs event, Lee bounced back from a Saturday 72 to shoot a four-under 67 and move up 23 spots to a tie for 35th.
The byproduct of his Sunday fireworks, which featured five birdies in succession to start the back nine after dropping a shot at the ninth, is that he is projected to move up four spots to 99th in the FedEx Cup and earn a berth in the Dell Technologies Championship.
Peter Fowler takes sixth European senior title
Peter Fowler won his first Staysure Tour title in three years as he emerged victorious at the Willow Senior Golf Classic at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club in England.Fowler, who is now a six-time winner on the European over-50s circuit, started the day in a four-way share of the lead at nine-under par and carded his second consecutive round of 69 to finish 12-under, two strokes clear of Clark Dennis and Gary Orr.
The lead changed hands on numerous occasions throughout the day, with Roger Chapman, Phil Golding, Santiago Luna and Miguel Ángel Martín all staking their claims for the title.
A birdie on the par-4 14th hole proved crucial, however, as Fowler moved one stroke clear of the pack. His fourth birdie of the day, on the 18th hole, rubber-stamped his sixth Staysure Tour title – his first since the 2015 ISPS Handa Seniors PGA Championship.
“It’s hard work getting your game into shape for you to win,” Fowler, 59, said. “There’s lot of younger players coming through and I’m glad I stayed on top today.
“I played with Miguel, and he started birdie-eagle; I knew it would be a tough day. I was just trying to keep my game steady; I only had one bogey which was good. I didn’t see a leaderboard until the 17th green and I thought a couple of pars would do it – I birdied the last which gave me that two-shot gap. It was a good feeling.”
Fowler, one of the most consistent players on the Staysure Tour, has recorded tied-second, third, sixth, eighth and 10th-place finishes so far this year. He has also finished inside the top-10 21 times in 44 starts since his last victory.
“I pride myself in staying in good shape and being reasonably consistent,” Fowler said. “We all have bad days, but I try and keep those to a minimum. That’s what I try to do all year round.
“If you keep knocking on the door and putting yourself in some sort of position it might jump you up, it makes me feel really good about what I’m working on.”
– courtesy of European Tour
Jason Scrivener surges in Europe
The stinging disappointment of a bogey at the penultimate hole was the only blemish as Jason Scrivener continued his love affair with Albatross Golf Club in Prague, finishing the D+D Real Czech Masters inside the top-20 for the second straight year.
As Italian Andrea Pavan was fighting off three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington to claim the title, Scrivener made the equal-biggest move of the final round, vaulting 28 spots up the leaderboard courtesy of a five-under par round of 67.
Tied for fifth at this event 12 months ago, the 29-year-old West Australian could have shared the best round of the day if not for a bogey at the par-4 17th, a hole where he also dropped a shot on Saturday.
Tied with Scrivener at 11-under was South Australian Adam Bland, who signed for a bogey-free 2-under 70 on Sunday, as did both Nick Cullen and Lucas Herbert, ending the week tied for 44th.
Scott Hend was the only other Australian to make the cut but three straight bogeys to end his round on Saturday saw the big-hitting Queenslander post a third-round 79 and a final round of 73 to finish tied 70th.
Jack Munro, Andrew Dodt, Sam Brazel, Jason Norris and Matthew Millar all missed the cut.
• In the limited-field Rolex Trophy event on the European Challenge Tour, Dimitrios Papadatos remains inside the top-15 in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings after finishing just outside the top-10 in Geneva. The only Aussie in the field, Papadatos started the final round tied for sixth and made all the right moves early in his round, registering birdies at the second and fifth holes. But with birdies hard to come by on the back nine over the weekend, Papadatos dropped a shot at the 13th to finish with a 71, 11 shots behind winner Kim Koivu who secured automatic promotion to the European Tour with his third win of the season.
Won Joon Lee records best finish of 2018
Former Australian Open runner-up Won Joon Lee has recorded his best finish of 2018, finishing tied for fifth at the Japan Golf Tour’s RIZAP KBC Augusta tournament at Keya Golf Club in Fukuoka.
Tied for the lead entering the final round and still in search of his first significant win as a professional, Lee had two bogeys and two birdies on each nine on Sunday to finish with an even-par round of 72, three shots back from winner Daijiro Izumida.
It was an extraordinary start to the tournament for Lee, who holed out three times in his opening round – twice for eagle and once for birdie – and required just 22 putts in his first-round 66 to put himself right in contention.
A second 66 in the third round had him level with Izumida after 54 holes at 11-under par but bogeys at the first and fourth holes, a three-putt bogey on 10 and another dropped shot at the par-3 12th prevented him from keeping pace with Izumida, who had opened up a three-shot gap by the turn.
Once ranked as high as 290th in the world after a stellar amateur career, Lee played just nine tournaments in 2012 and 2013 and dropped as low as 1,508th in the rankings but is enjoying something of a resurgence on the Japan Golf Tour.
This was his third top-20 finish this year and his prizemoney of ¥3,800,000 moved him up to 53rd on the Japan Golf Tour moneylist.
Fellow Australians Aaron Townsend and Brendan Jones both finished tied for 11th at nine-under par, with Anthony Quayle two shots further back in a tie for 23rd. New Zealand’s Michael Hendry fired his best round of the week on Sunday – a three-under par 69 – to finish tied for 42nd while Matthew Griffin was tied for 52nd.
David Bransdon and Scott Strange both missed the cut.