Returning for only his second tournament after injuring his back lifting a jet-ski three months ago, Dustin Johnson captured the FedEx St. Jude Classic this past week in Memphis by one stroke over John Merrick. Johnson, who started the final round two strokes back of the lead, put together a Sunday charge and ended up shooting a 4-under 66, eclipsing all other challengers including Rory McIlroy. McIlroy was tied for the lead early in the day but struggled on the back nine, including making a double-bogey on 18. Despite the double-bogey to finish the tournament, McIlroy returned to form this past week after missing three straight cuts. Johnson, who already had three other top-10 finishes this season before teeing it up in Memphis, has a ton of ground to make up if he wants to make the Ryder Cup team in September. But, a victory this past week will act as a springboard for his confidence heading through the rest of the summer.
Shanshan Feng wins LPGA Championship
Shanshan Feng, the only woman fromChinaon the LPGA tour, won the tour’s first major of the year this past Sunday. Feng won the LPGA Tour with a 5-under 67 for a two-stroke victory. Feng’s 67 was the lowest round of the tournament. Although Asian women have been dominating on the LPGA Tour for quite a while now, surprisingly, Feng was the first woman ever fromChinato win a LPGA title. Considering how successful they’ve been on the LPGA tour for years now, it would not be surprising to see a major one day played in Asia. And, with China putting heavy dollars into their amateur athletes in time for the Olympics in 2016 – where golf will make its return – I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more Chinese contenders sooner rather than later.
Ryder Cup Rumblings
With the emphatic return of Dustin Johnson this past week, all of a sudden the list of the top American golfers got much longer. With 2012 being a Ryder Cup year, there will be even more focus than usual on who is playing well this side of the Atlantic. For years, the European team always appeared stronger on paper, and the results showed. This year, however, one could argue the teams will be at least even, on paper and rankings-wise. The top 10 on the U.S.team as of mid-June are listed as: Watson, Dufner, Mickelson, Kuchar, Mahan, Woods, Johnson, Bradley, Fowler, Johnson. All winners on the PGA Tour so far this year – save for Bradley, but he is the reigning PGA Champion and lost in a playoff earlier this year – and all playing some extremely good golf. The European team should not be considered underdogs by any means – they do have the nos 1, 2, and 3-ranked players in the world on their team in Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, and Lee Westwood. However, top-to-bottom, the Americans look stronger at this point. It will definitely be an interesting summer to see how the teams shake out.
Born in the U.S.A.
This week, the PGA Tour heads to the ‘land where legends die,’ Olympic Club in San Francisco, for the 112th playing of the U.S Open – the second major of the year. The nickname for Olympic Club was born after Ben Hogan was upset by little-known Jack Fleck in the 1955 U.S. Open and kicked off a string of upsets by underdogs over crowd favourites. Names like the aforementioned Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson, and Lee Janzen have all won the Open at Olympic over legends like Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Payne Stewart. There has not been a U.S. Open in recent memory that has been filled with more story lines than this one. The front-runner is, of course, Tiger Woods, who already has two wins on the season. Not to be overlooked as contenders include, well, everybody. To borrow a line from Tin Cup, “Anyone’s got a shot at it. You just gotta get past a local and a sectional qualifier and unlike Doral, or Colonial, or the A.T.T. they can’t keep you out […] You qualify, you’re in.” It should be a great week.