Around the Tours: Nov. 14 golf report

Golf: The Charles Schwab Cup finale left a bad taste for many, Henrik Stenson is no caped crusader and the revolving door for the women’s No.1 ranking turns again.

By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor

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NEWS WIRE

  • The Charles Schwab Cup playoffs ended up with its worst nightmare, as the most dominant season in almost two decades on the PGA Tour Champions circuit didn’t end in the big prize. Instead, Bernhard Langer‘s trophy was swiped by someone who had been winless on the tour before Sunday. Kevin Sutherland hit the jackpot at Phoenix Country Club, holding off Vijay Singh and Lee Janzen by a shot to score his first win anywhere since the 2002 WGC Match Play. A solid season that included five top-3 finishes allowed him to enter the finale in fifth place, allowing him to win the Cup without any assistance. Langer’s seven wins in 2017 meant nothing in Phoenix, when an opening 71 left him nine shots back after the first day.
  • Did a stint as “Superman” cause Henrik Stenson to sit out the European Tour’s final two events? That’s the question being asked after a rib injury led Stenson to withdraw from both the Nedbank Golf Challenge and this week’s playoff finale in Dubai. Reports say Stenson sustained the injury during a promotional shoot at last month’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China, where he joined Dustin Johnson and Li Haotong suspended in the air via harnesses while donning capes. “I’m not Superman, even though certain people thought I was Superman,” he told UK tabloid The Telegraph. Later, though, Stenson took to social media to say the comment was about injuries in general and he wasn’t referring to the HSBC shoot.
  • For the second week in a row, there’s a new name atop the women’s world rankings. Shanshan Feng became the first Chinese golfer to stand atop the world rankings, displacing Sung Hyun Park with back-to-back victories in Japan and her homeland. Feng thus becomes the fifth golfer to hold the No.1 spot in 2017 – most in any year – with Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and So Yeon Ryu having preceded Park. And there’s a chance the top spot will change hands one more time, with Ryu and Park close enough to reclaim the spot at this week’s season finale in Florida.
  • The PGA Tour stop at Colonial, an annual staple since 1946, may be on its last legs. Reports out of Fort Worth say tournament organizers have been given until Dec. 1 to raise $11.5 million to put on next May’s event. The move comes after tournament sponsor Dean & DeLuca informed officials it may not be able to fulfill its financial obligations. Officials have expressed optimism that the 2018 event will get emergency funding, but beyond that is anyone’s guess. The tour schedule faces a 2019 shakeup to shift its playoffs back to August, and sponsor-less stops at Colonial and outside Washington would make for easy cuts.
  • Though most might have expected it to have occurred years ago, Gary Player is now part of South Africa’s Hall of Fame. The 82-year-old icon was enshrined last week, becoming just the third golfer in his homeland’s shrine for sports figures. Bobby Locke and Sally Little were the golfers to precede him.

THIS WEEK

PGA TOUR: RSM Classic

Site: Sea Island GC (Seaside), St. Simon’s Island, Ga.

  • Defending champion: Mackenzie Hughes went wire-to-wire and then some, surviving a five-man playoff that spilled into Monday for his first PGA Tour win. An 18-foot par save on the third extra hole proved the winner, after Blayne Barber, Henrik Norlander and Camilo Villegas all missed. Billy Horschel had been eliminated earlier.
  • Last week: Patton Kizzire scored his first PGA Tour victory by taking the OHL Classic, withstanding Rickie Fowler’s charge at the end of a long, rain-interrupted week in Mexico. Kizzire led by four with six to play on a 36-hole Sunday, but two Fowler birdies closed the gap before falling one stroke short at the end
  • Tour talk: It’s a home game for a dozen or so Sea Island members, including Kizzire and tournament host Davis Love III. Others include Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Brian Harman and Hudson Swafford. A fulltime resident has yet to win. … Six of the Classic’s first seven editions have been decided by no more than one shot, the exception being Kevin Kisner’s six-shot romp in 2015.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Sunday, 1:30-4:30 p.m. ET).
  • Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; RSM Classic primer from Pro Golf Weekly.

LPGA TOUR: CME Group Tour Championship

Site: Tiburón GC (Gold), Naples, Fla.

  • Defending champion: Charley Hull notched her first LPGA victory, outdueling So Yeon Ryu on the final day for a two-shot win, while Ariya Jutanugarn claimed the CME Globe points title. Deadlocked with two holes to play, Hull birdied Tiburón’s par-5 17th while Ryu’s ball wound up under the lip of a bunker. Jutanugarn’s share of fourth was enough to beat out Lydia Ko in the points race.
  • Last week: China’s Shanshan Feng became the LPGA’s first back-to-back winner of 2017, making the Blue Bay LPGA in her homeland her third win of the season. Feng, who also prevailed a week earlier in Japan, outdueled Moriya Jutanugarn down the stretch before pulling clear with a birdie at No.13.
  • Tour talk: The Race to the CME Globe points chase is but one of several storylines to be decided at Tiburón after an evenly matched season. Lexi Thompson tops the points chart, though Park, Feng, Ryu and Brooke Henderson also can claim the crown with a victory. … The final event also will resolve Player of the Year honors, as well as the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. … Tiburón shows off its recovery efforts just 10 weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Florida’s Gulf Coast.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Saturday 4:30-6:30 p.m.) and ABC (Sunday, 1-4 p.m.).

EUROPEAN TOUR: DP World Tour Championship

Site: Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  • Defending champion: A birdie/bogey swing lifted England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick to just his third European Tour title, leapfrogging Tyrrell Hatton with a closing birdie while his countryman bogeyed. Henrik Stenson claimed the Race to Dubai crown for a second time, using a final-round 65 to hold off longshot bids by Rory McIlroy and Alex Noren.
  • Last week: Branden Grace became the first South African in a decade to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge, closing with a bogey-free 66 on home soil to finish one shot clear of Scott Jamieson. The duo joined Victor Dubuisson in a deadlock with four holes to play, until Grace rolled home a 40-foot birdie at No.16.
  • Tour talk: The Race to Dubai points comes down to three men, with Tommy Fleetwood seeking to hold off fast-closing Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. … Rose arrives seeking a third win in as many starts, taking last week off after claiming the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. A runner-up finish will suffice this week, as long as Fleetwood doesn’t win. … Garcia’s path to the crown requires a win, while Rose places no better than fourth and Fleetwood outside the top 11.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-8 a.m.; Saturday, 2:30-8 a.m.; Sunday, 2-7:30 a.m.).

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Season complete

Next up: Qualifying finals, Nov. 28-Dec. 1, Scottsdale, Ariz.

  • Tour talk: Schwab Cup or no, Bernhard Langer’s seven victories in 2017 were the most in a season since Bruce Fleisher won seven back in 1999. Nor had anyone produced as many as six since 2000. … Kevin Sutherland’s victory marked just the third time in Schwab Cup history that the winner of the finale also took home the big prize. Then again, the Champions playoff system has been in place for just two years. … For all his success in 10 Champions seasons, Langer has yet to win the Schwab Cup finale.

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