Around the Tours: Oct. 10 golf report

Golf: The PGA Tour’s opening event got off the stage just in time, as wildfires soon swept through northern California. Meantime, the Presidents Cup left a bad taste with one PGA Tour wife.

By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor

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NEWS WIRE

  • Within eight hours of the final putt dropping at the PGA Tour’s opening Safeway Open, wildfires spreading in the Napa Valley soon forced Silverado Resort & Spa to evacuate. Patton Kizzire, Kyle Thompson and Martin Piller were among those who tweeted photos as they were forced to flee, and photos Monday showed fire consuming covered grandstands that were being used at the tournament one day earlier. More than a dozen wildfires burned in Northern California late Tuesday, with the largest ones killing at least 17 people and sending some 2,000 structures up in flames.
  • While the U.S. blowout in the Presidents Cup created a party mood at Liberty National, it left a bad taste with at least one International team wife. Audrey Leishman, American wife of Australian pro Marc Leishman, sounded off on her blog about poor fan behavior as the powerhouse U.S. squad built an insurmountable lead heading into the final day. “Hecking a wife for her beauty and then her husband for his play,” she wrote. “I was thankful my boys weren’t there to see the way people were treating their daddy.” Mrs. Leishman said reactions to her post covered a wide spectrum, both positive and negative.
  • World No.1 Dustin Johnson and three of this year’s four major winners headline the field for the upcoming Hero World Challenge, the 18-man annual gathering hosted by Tiger Woods and now staged in the Bahamas. Hideki Matsuyama will defend his title against a lineup featuring 16 of the top 24 players in the world, though Masters champion Sergio Garcia is absent from the list. So is Woods – at least for now. As Woods posted another video of him hitting “smooth iron shots” in his comeback from back surgery, there’s a chance he could be one of two wild cards to be later added to the field.
  • The announcements surprised no one, but now they’re official. Justin Thomas was voted the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year in the wake of a five-win season that included his first major championship and ended with the FedExCup title. Rookie of the Year honors went to Xander Schauffele, whose victory at the Tour Championship – with Thomas second – made him the first rookie to win twice in a season since Keegan Bradley in 2011.
  • The U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will hand out two additional exemptions, awarding berths to winners from the USGA’s junior and mid-amateur championships. That means U.S. Junior champion Noah Goodwin and U.S. Girls’ Junior winner Erica Shepherd are among the first who can make plans for next year’s events. With 77 players exempt into last year’s 156-man Open field at Erin Hills, the move also means the number of exemptions now is likely to outpace qualifying berths.

THIS WEEK

PGA TOUR: CIMB Classic

Site: TPC Kuala Lumpur (West), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Defending champion: Justin Thomas chased down Anirban Lahiri to successfully defend his first PGA Tour title, closing with an 8-under-par 64 that was two shots clear of anyone else in the field. After fixing an alignment issue during his third round, Thomas played his final 23 holes in 13-under par.
  • Last week: Brendan Steele went back-to-back at the Safeway Open, holding steady among strengthening winds with a 3-under-par 69 that overtook rookie Tyler Duncan and finished two shots ahead of Tony Finau. Phil Mickelson shared third with Duncan after birdies on five of his last 11 holes.
  • Tour talk: Thomas and world No.3 Hideki Matsuyama headline a limited field of just 78 players. Eleven placed among the FedExCup’s top 30 last month. … Thomas is the latest to take a run at authoring the Tour’s first three-peat since Steve Stricker won three John Deere Classics from 2009-11. … The field has nine players from the International squad that lost the Presidents Cup.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Wednesday-Thursday, 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. ET; Friday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m.).
  • Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; CIMB Classic primer from Pro Golf Weekly.

LPGA TOUR: KEB Hana Bank Championship

Site: Sky 72 GC (Ocean), Incheon, South Korea

  • Defending champion: Spain’s Carlota Ciganda captured a roller-coaster first LPGA win, going from five shots behind Alison Lee to five ahead to needing a playoff to finish the job. Ciganda used a 2-under-par 70 to get into the playoff, then dispatched Lee with a birdie on the first extra hole..
  • Last week: While the LPGA was idle after the New Zealand Women’s Open, Cristie Kerr went to Europe for an emotional victory at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France. With the LET dedicating the event to a LET pro who died of cancer and Kerr losing a friend to the disease earlier in the week, the Florida native cruised to a four-shot win. She donated $5,000 of her winnings to a local cancer charity.
  • Tour talk: World No.1 So Yeon Ryu headlines a lineup in her homeland that features each of the top 10 women in the world rankings and 18 of the top 20. … Michelle Wie tees it up competitively for the first time since an emergency appendectomy before the final round of the Canadian Women’s Open in August. … South Korea is home to 27 active LPGA players, of which 23 have won a title.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, noon-4 p.m.; Friday, noon-2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.).

EUROPEAN TOUR: Italian Open

Site: Golf Club Milano, Monza, Italy

  • Defending champion: Francesco Molinari ended a four-year victory drought by winning his home Open for the second time, outdueling Danny Willett with a closing 65 that gave him a one-stroke win. Combined with his 2006 triumph, Molinari also became the first Italian pro to win any European event twice.
  • Last week: Tyrrell Hatton became the first player to go back-to-back at the Alfred Dunhill Links, shooting 65-65-66 over the final three days to hold off a fast-closing Ross Fisher at St. Andrew’s. Fisher set an Old Course record with a closing 61 that featured 11 birdies. Two days earlier, Tommy Fleetwood fired a 63 at Carnoustie that also rewrote a course record.
  • Tour talk: Masters champion Sergio Garcia and fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm headline the lineup for the first of back-to-back national opens, with Spain’s championship on deck. Hatton, Fleetwood and Fisher all arrive off their successes in Scotland. … This is the 74th edition of the Italian Open, going back to 1925. It is one of just six events to be held every year since the European Tour’s 1972 debut.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4 a.m.-noon; Saturday-Sunday, 6:30-11:30 a.m.).

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: SAS Championship

Site: Prestonwood CC (Highlands), Cary, N.C.

  • Defending champion: Doug Garwood ran away with his first Champions victory, closing with an 8-under-par 64 to finish four shots clear of his nearest pursuers. The 53-year-old California native birdied six of his final 12 holes, notching his first win since 2001 on what’s now the Web.com Tour.
  • Last week: No tournament.
  • Tour talk: It’s the final event of the Champions regular season, with the top 72 in earnings advancing to the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs that start next week in Virginia. … Nick Faldo and Brad Faxon seek last-gasp playoff spots, needing top-5 finishes to extend their seasons. … Winning U.S. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker is a late add to the field, teeing it up for the first time since August.
  • TV: Golf Channel (Friday-Sunday, 2:30-5 p.m.).
 
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