Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here’s every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of Sept. 23.
Danny Willett’s rise from the dead continues
At the end of the 2018 BMW PGA Championship, Danny Willett had fallen to 462nd in the Official World Golf ranking after a missed cut at Wentworth. It was his lowest standing since the early days of his pro career in January 2009, one of the many “rock bottom” points in a slump that began some time after his 2016 Masters victory. His one and only Ryder Cup experience later that year didn’t help, as Willett posted an 0-3 record in Europe’s first losing effort since 2008. What also didn’t help was Willett’s brother P.J. penning a rant against America and its fans prior to the matches, making for a hostile environment for Willett and the Europeans. When asked to describe the week, Willett called it “sh-t.” When asked to elaborate, he added “really sh-t.”
Willett could have said the same about his next two seasons, each marred by poor play and a nagging back injury. In 44 worldwide starts from January 2017 to October 2018, Willett missed 21 cuts, withdrew four times and had just two top-10s. One of those missed cuts came at the 2017 Masters, where he became the first defending champion to fail to play the weekend since Mike Weir in 2004.
Despite the elongated slump, Willett never wavered in his quest to return to his 2015-’16 form, two seasons that saw him collect 14 finishes inside the top six, including three wins. His official rise from the dead came last November, when he won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, but the true “I’m back” moment came on Sunday outside London, where Willett claimed the European Tour’s premier event, the BMW PGA Championship. And he didn’t just win, he slayed one of the game’s giants in the process, defeating Jon Rahm with a final-round 67 that featured a pair of door-slamming birdies on the 71st and 72nd holes. The highlight of the round, however, was a bogey at the 11th hole, which could just have easily been an 8:
Afterward, Willett reflected on what it took to return to the top.
“Just an undying want to get back there. I was willing to change whatever had to be changed, and I think that’s pretty hard to do, it’s hard to jump full throttle into something that you’re not quite sure if it’s going to work out or not.”
It’s working out just fine. With the win, Willett takes home $1.6 million, and he’s now back inside the top 50 of the OWGR for the first time since the 2017 PGA Championship. Perhaps the best news of all is that he’s now 1st in the European Ryder Cup standings, as points begin to accumulate this week. Decent timing!
Above all though, he made his brother P.J. eat his words. You can’t put a price on that.
Sebastian Munoz stuns Sungjae Im at Sanderson Farms
It’s almost impossible for those with a subscription to NFL Red Zone to make time to watch golf on a football Sunday, but those who did flip over to the Sanderson Farms Championship late in the afternoon made the right choice. The tournament looked to be Sebastian Munoz’s for much of the final round, but a late-round birdie barrage from 2018-’19 PGA Tour rookie-of-the-year Sungjae Im changed things quickly. Im finished with a six-under 66, putting him in the clubhouse at 18 under.
A few holes back, at the par-4 15th, Munoz made his first bogey in 39 holes, dropping him to 17 under and in danger of throwing his first PGA Tour victory away.
On the very next tee, Munoz took an aggressive line down the left side and appeared to be headed for the water. But it took a fortunate bounce and he was able to go par, par, meaning he had to birdie the 18th hole to force a playoff. The 26-year-old from Colombia proceeded to hit a 322-yard bomb down the middle, then put his 164-yard second shot to 14 feet, setting up the putt of his life:
The birdie conversion forced a playoff with Im, and both players returned to the 18th tee. Munoz went first, blocking his tee shot into the right rough. Im followed by pulling his tee shot in the left rough. Im then flew the green, while Munoz came up woefully short. Let’s just say if Johnny Miller were in the booth, the terms “nerves” and “choke” would have gotten plenty of use.
But what Munoz did next was no choke, clipping his pitch to a few feet. From a tough spot behind the green, Im did well to chip it only five or six feet past, but he missed the comeback par putt on the low side. Munoz tapped in and became the sixth straight first-time PGA Tour winner at the Sanderson Farms. Break out the Rooster!
Munoz’s past results on tour should have been enough to prove to himself he belonged, but it was his friend Joaquin Niemann’s maiden win a week ago at The Greenbrier that gave him that extra push.
“Joaco’s win definitely gave me the belief that I needed, the little extra belief that I’m good enough, that I’m here. Man, it’s just crazy,” said Munoz.
As for Im, we won’t have to wait much longer for his first victory. He now has eight top 10s in 39 starts on tour, including a pair of top 3 finishes.
Nelly Korda laps the Ladies French Open field
Following a dominant, 3-0-1 performance as a rookie in the Solheim Cup, albeit in a losing effort, Nelly Korda picked up right where she left off at the Ladies French Open. The 21-year-old, now ranked 10th in the world, held only a one-stroke lead heading into Sunday and wound up winning by an astounding eight strokes thanks to a final-round 67. It’s her fourth victory as a professional, and her first on the Ladies European Tour.
With seven events remaining in the LPGA season, Korda sits at eighth in the Race to CME Globe standings, and one of those remaining events is one she won a year ago, the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA. She’ll need to do something really impressive this fall to catch CME Globe leader Jin Young Ko. For now, she’s already locked up another handbag from older sister Jessica, a nice consolation prize no matter how the rest of the season shakes out.
Ross Fisher finishes round with albatross
There are walk offs, and then there’s walking off with an albatross. That’s what England’s Ross Fisher did on Saturday at the BMW PGA. Enjoy:
Nice way to cap off an eight-under 29 on the home nine at Wentworth, where he’d go on to shoot a 76 on Sunday to fall into a tie for 31st. But who on earth cares about that. Did you see that new set of wheels? Fire! Love that he brought his putter with him to retrieve the ball out of the hole, almost like he didn’t believe it. Not surprisingly, Fisher called it the best shot he ever hit:
We’d all be saying the same thing if we were driving home in that BMW.