From the professional tours to trending news and social-media headlines, here are some golf-related things you might have missed from the weekend.
Duncan earns breakthrough
The PGA Tour is now on holiday break. And it's going to be a mean Thanksgiving spread at the Duncan household.
With a birdie on the second hole of sudden death at the RSM Classic, Tyler Duncan secured his first PGA Tour victory.
"Just so happy to be here playing," Duncan said. "To come out here and win, it's just unbelievable."
Duncan, 30, needed a trip to the Korn Ferry Finals to keep his tour card this year and hadn't done much in the new season heading into the fall finale, ranked outside the FedEx Cup 150 at the quarter mark of the 2019-'20 campaign. But a Friday 61 put him atop the Sea Island leader board, and though he stalled on Saturday, Duncan made amends with a late charge on Sunday. On an afternoon with high winds, Duncan shot a 31 on the back nine—highlighted by a 25-footer birdie on the 18th hole—to force a playoff with Simpson (who missed a 30-footer for the win on the last but made a testy comebacker to enter overtime).
Replaying the 18th after trading pars on the first playoff hole, Simpson's approach from the rough found a greenside bunker and Duncan's finished 12 feet from the hole. Simpson's bunker shot was good, but he wouldn't get the chance to save par, as Duncan converted the life-changing birdie for the win.
For his efforts Duncan earned a $1,188,000 payday, essentially doubling his career earnings in 67 previous starts. The RSM triumph gets him into the Masters and PGA Championship, and more important, gives the former Purdue golfer job security. In short, the man has a few things to be thankful for this week.
"I don't think I could honestly process all of that right now," Duncan said, "but just thinking about it's pretty awesome."
Todd's heater comes up short
The thing about stars is they eventually burn out. Some shine so bright they extinguish as soon as they light. In that vein, we salute one of the more inspiring heaters in recent memory.
That would be the run of one Brendon Todd, who went from missing 37 of 41 cuts and contemplating a career change to winning back-to-back weeks on tour. Through three days at Sea Island, Todd was on the precipice of history, owning a two-shot lead heading into the final round. A win would have put Todd—No. 2,006 on the World Ranking to start 2019—on a list with Gary Player and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to win three consecutive weeks on tour since 1970.
However, Todd never looked right in Round 4, missing the first two fairways, making a double on the par-4 fifth after a badly pushed approach, and fighting his putter throughout the afternoon. He made birdies on the 15th and 16th to make his score respectable, but a two-over 72 missed a playoff by three strokes.
Todd attributed his day to tough conditions and strong competition, although he also conceded feeling gassed down the final stretch. "I didn't feel I was in the zone," said Todd, who finished fourth. "I was in this just like adrenaline-fueled zone the last three weeks, and I couldn't get there today. I think it just didn't start out very good and I wasn't able to kind of—once a bogey happens, then you're just in this weird fight-or-flight mentality, so it kind of took all my positive energy away."
Conversely, no apologies are necessary. It takes something, and someone, special to inject vigor into this sleepy slice of the tour season. Brendon Todd's moment was improbable, and without a doubt, enjoyable.
Speaking of heaters...
Rahm wins big in Dubai
With all due respect to the Toddfather, the hottest player in golf hails from Spain.
That would be Jon Rahm, who entered the DP World Tour Championship with seven top-five finishes in his last 11 starts dating to the U.S. Open. Make that eight in his last 12, as Rahm won the European Tour finale—and with it, its Race to Dubai title—with a birdie on the final hole at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Not that it was the most aesthetically palatable finish. Rahm lost a six-stroke lead with 11 to play, a circumstance that was equal parts calamity (Rahm made two bogeys before the turn, followed by par golf through eight on the back) and heroics (Tommy Fleetwood carded six birdies on his back nine to erase an eight-shot deficit). Needing a birdie on the par-5 18th to beat Fleetwood (and hold off playing partner Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who was one back), Rahm's approach found a greenside bunker, but a chunk-and-run splash left four feet for the win, a distance Rahm cleaned up to avoid what could have been an epic mess.
“I feel like I've had two different days completely,” Rahm said. “Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. I felt really, really confident; everything was rolling. My putting was unbelievable. Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt kind of took everything in the wrong direction. I kept myself in there with a birdie on 10 and a birdie 14, but I still made some mistakes. It would have been a very different day if I don't three-putt nine and 15. But it happened. And it made me show some determination and grit and heart just to win.”
The win is Rahm's third of the year, but that hardly encapsulates his absurd tear. In 24 events, Rahm placed in the top three seven times, with an additional nine fourth-to-10th finishes. He's finished outside the top 13 just once since May. Talk yourself tired with Koepka-versus-McIlroy debates; just make sure to sprinkle Rahm into that discussion.
Kim's $1.5 million putt
Suzann Pettersen's seven-footer to win the Solheim Cup was a doozy, but the biggest money putt of the year, literally and figuratively, belongs to Sei Young Kim.
Kim drilled a 25-footer on the finale hole to win the CME Group Tour Championship, and with it, $1.5 million, the largest prize in LPGA history.
“She’s just got it, the it factor, it’s in her," Kim's caddie, Paul Fusco, said. "You’ve seen what she’s done, the records, the holing out. She does special things.”
Kim, a former LPGA rookie of the year, held the lead through the season finale's first three days. But Danielle Kang and Charley Hull made formidable attacks on the final round. Kang made five birdies on the front and an eagle on the 17th to apply the heat, and Hull birdied her final three holes to tie Kim. But Kim, who played steady, if not remarkable golf on Sunday, answered on the 18th green.
Amazingly, Kim didn't know the situation.
"To be honest with you, I was only aware of Nelly's position when I was putting," Kim said, through a translator. "I had no idea Charley's score. So I just thought of two-putting to secure my win."
Ignorance truly is bliss.
It is Kim's third W of the season, and 10th of her career.
Changes coming to tour
During the real-time fallout of Bryson DeChambeau's pace-of-play problems at the Northern Trust, the PGA Tour issued a statement promising fans it was looking into the matter. It appears that issue was more than lip service.
According to Golf Digest's Dave Shedloski, one of the changes made to the tour's Pace of Play Policy will be a focus on individuals rather than its current group-based system. Shedloski writes the focus will result in the creation of a list, according to a source, of the slowest players—those who repeatedly average more than 45 seconds to play a shot. The list would not be made public, not even to players. However, once a player is on the list, he is more likely to be timed by a rules official and would incur a one-stroke penalty for a second bad time during a round.
One player told Golf Digest that the tour is considering the addition of two more rules officials, one assigned to each nine throughout a tournament, for more thorough monitoring. The allowable time for players to execute a shot is 40 seconds if they are not first to hit.
“We’re not trying to blacklist anyone,” said the player, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But it’s going to be much more fair to the majority of the players.”
Though this might seem like a small measure, it's one of the first genuine endeavors to tackle the problem in years, and follows the European Tour's four-point plan for addressing the speed of the game.