The unstoppable train that is the 2015 golfing season hurtled through yet another week at an accelerated pace, with Jason Day – one of the game’s most powerful locomotives – picking up the biggest prize in San Diego. Over in Malaysia, it was Anirban Lahiri who all but ensured himself of an invitation to Augusta National, while the game collectively paid tribute to one of its all-time greats – Billy Casper.
Farmers Insurance Open
On Sunday, the scoring at Torrey Pines resembled that of an U.S. Open, so it was no surprise to see Jason Day (the perennial major contender) thriving in such a difficult environment. The gifted Australian has perhaps failed to win as many tournaments as his talent merits, but his playoff victory in California may very well be a sign that the 27-year-old is about to move to the next level.
Finding himself in a four-way playoff with J.B. Holmes, Harris English and defending champion Scott Stallings, Day always seemed to be the most assured. After the first hole of sudden death, Holmes and the Queenslander exchanged birdies on the 18th to take the old San Diego Open to a 74th hole of competition.
The 16th was to be the setting for the climax of this tournament, with Day capitalising on a poor tee shot from Holmes on the par three. The three-time major runner-up produced a brilliant shot to within 15-feet, forcing the Kentuckian to get up-and-down. Holmes failed to oblige, securing the Australian’s third triumph on the PGA Tour.
Following his victory at the WGC Accenture Matchplay last year, Day’s progress was frustratingly halted by a recurring thumb injury. Now with that behind him, do not be surprised if we see the Ohio resident win a major championship later this year.
He has completed the prerequisite lessons. Now it’s time for him to pass the test.
Maybank Malaysian Open
Anirban Lahiri is a name that even the most hardened of golf observers would struggle to recall much about. The 27-year-old from India did make a hole-in-one at Royal Lytham in the Open Championship three years ago, but five victories on the Asian Tour doesn’t (unfortunately) register in the minds of the public.
But now, with a win on the European Tour under his belt – people will start to take notice of the gifted Bangalore resident who now looks set to follow in the footsteps of Jeev Milkha Singh by competing in the Masters Tournament. Now ranked 37th in the world, Lahiri will almost be certainly making that drive down Magnolia Lane.
One other notable achievement from the humid Kuala Lumper was that of Lee Westwood – who overtook Ernie Els at the top of the European Tour’s career money list. Testament to consistent success for almost two decades, it has been a tremendous career. And there may be more to come for the lad from Worksop.
Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic
South Korean rookie Sei Young Kim go her career on the LPGA Tour off to a sterling start by claiming victory in the Bahamas in a playoff over Sun Young Yoo and Ariya Jutanugarn.
A consistent winner on the Korean LPGA, Sei Young Kim came through qualifying-school in December with the objective of potentially claiming a spot on her nation’s Olympic team next year. More performances of this nature, and that dream may very well become a reality.
The major success of Se Ri Pak initiated the initial surge of Korean talent on the LPGA Tour more than a decade ago, and it appears that the status of Inbee Park is having a similar influence. Sei Young Kim is the first of many.
For Paul Goydos, life at 50 has been pretty good. 12 events into his career on the Champions Tour, and he already has claimed two victories. This second came at the highly regarded Old Course at Broken Sound, with a birdie on the final hole ensuring a one-shot win from Gene Sauers.
Goydos, known for his dry and self-deprecating sense of humour, endured an injury afflicted final few years on the PGA Tour, but he has seen a resurgence in his game and health since joining the senior circuit.
There seems to be a near-ending production line of impressive American talent – and Patrick Rodgers is just the latest example. Winning the second event of the Web.Com Tour calendar in a playoff over Steve Marino – Rodgers is now firmly on course to the PGA Tour.
Formerly the world’s number one ranked amateur, Rodgers equalled Tiger Woods’ record of 11 championships at Stanford University. Now in the professional ranks and looking to follow in the footsteps of his idol, keep an eye on this prodigious talent this year. He could achieve a lot.
Initially, this particular segment was going to be dedicated to the ongoing travails of a certain Tiger Woods. However, this space will be left for the great Billy Casper – who passed away on Saturday at the age of 83.
A three-time major champion with 51 PGA Tour victories, Casper was among the finest players of all-time. With a metronomic fade and a deft putting touch, this understated champion often usurped the more publicised “Big Three” of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
It could – and really should have been the Big Four. Casper was their equal.
Off the course, his greatness as a man will endure. With 11 children and 34 grandchildren, he and Shirley – his wife of 62 years – presided over a large and happy family. Known for his warmth and kindness, Casper was one of golf’s true gentlemen.
Underrated and underappreciated by so many, but never by his fellow competitors, it is regrettable that this discussion of his legacy has only occurred after his death. We should never forget the greats.
Rest in peace, Billy Casper. You were one of the best.