Familiar names returning to the top of leaderboards, and a travelling American winning a return ticket home dominate AFP Sport’s golf talking points this week:
– Lydia by numbers –
Lydia Ko is back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since February 2018 after her dominant seven-stroke victory at the Lotte Championship ended a 1,084-day winless run.
The former teen prodigy’s last few rounds make for some eye-watering statistics.
From her incredible record-equalling 62 on the Sunday of the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, Ko has been untouchable.
The New Zealander’s last five rounds have been 62, 67, 63, 65 and 65 — a jaw-dropping 38 under par with just one bogey in 90 holes.
Up to seventh in the world, Ko talked about how she’d been inspired by Jordan Spieth (1,351 days without a victory before the Texas Open) and Hideki Matsuyama (1,344 days until he won The Masters) ending similar droughts this month as 2021 shapes up as the year of the comeback.
So who might be next to get back in the winner’s circle?
Could it be Rory McIlroy, who last lifted a trophy at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai? Maybe, but his 535-day dry spell is put in the shade by the man one place above him in the world rankings.
World number 12 Tony Finau last tasted success at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, a whopping 1,851 days ago.
– Father and son –
Stewart Cink had endured an even longer losing streak, from his sole major at Turnberry’s 2009 Open Championship until the Safeway Open last September at the start of this PGA Tour season.
On that occasion Cink’s son Reagan had just been filling in as caddie but, after the win, dad asked him to stay on and 12 events later the pair won again at the RBC Heritage on Sunday.
“It worked at Safeway, it worked here this week,” said Cink Sr, who has joined Bryson DeChambeau as the only two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.
Any more success and Reagan, due to get married and start a new job in the summer, might be tempted to stay another year.
“I look forward to the rest of the year with him caddying,” said Cink. “I might just retire when he stops caddying. How can I top this?”
– Catlin’s major date –
A few hours before 47-year-old Cink made it seven career US PGA Tour wins, another American, 30-year-old John Catlin, was winning in his seventh different country at the European Tour’s Austrian Open.
The former Asian Tour player has now won three times in his last 13 starts in Europe, his previous two coming last year in Spain’s Andalucia Masters and the Irish Open.
Catlin’s first professional wins were in second-tier Asian Development Tour events in Indonesia and Malaysia in 2016 and 2017.
He went on to win four times on the main Asian Tour, in Malaysia (twice), Taiwan and Thailand.
He rises to 79th in the world after Sunday’s triumph and his reward will be a first major appearance at the US PGA Championship next month where the globe-trotter will have a rare chance to compete on home soil.
He has played only four PGA Tour events in the US — all in 2019 with a best result of tied 44th at the Phoenix Open — and he holds the unusual distinction, for an American, of achieving all nine of his professional wins overseas.
– World rankings –
Latest men’s and women’s top 10s, week beginning April 19, 2021
1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 10.57
2. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.95
3. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.84
4. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.27
5. Xander Schauffele (USA) 7.22
6. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 7.15
7. Patrick Reed (USA) 6.24
8. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 5.95
9. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.76
10. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 5.51
44. Stewart Cink (USA) 2.61 (+71)
79. John Catlin (USA) 1.61 (+45)
1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 9.37
2. Park In-bee (KOR) 8.71
3. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 8.26
4. Nelly Korda (USA) 7.92
5. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.32
6. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 5.53 (+1)
7. Lydia Ko (NZL) 5.49 (+4)
8. Lexi Thompson (USA) 5.38 (-2)
9. Kim Hyo-joo (KOR) 5.12 (-1)
10. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 4.93