Golf: Justin Thomas wins in Firestone’s WGC finale; Georgia Hall takes Women’s British Open
Justin Thomas took all the drama out of the final World Golf Championship at Firestone, never letting anyone closer than two shots and closing with a 1-under 69 to win the Bridgestone Invitational for his third PGA Tour title this season.
Sweeter than capturing his first World Golf Championship was the sight behind the 18th green Sunday. His grandparents, Paul and Phyllis Thomas, watched him win in person for the first time on the PGA Tour. Paul Thomas was a career club professional and played at Firestone in the 1960 PGA Championship, missing the 54-hole cut. His son, Mike Thomas, also is a career club pro in Kentucky and a former PGA of America board member. They saw a one-man show.
Playing in the final group with Rory McIlroy, the 25-year-old Thomas made only two birdies. That was all he needed on a day when just about everyone within range was making all the mistakes.
Thomas finished at 15-under 265 for a four-shot victory over Kyle Stanley, who got within two shots of the lead until bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes. Stanley closed with a 68.
Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player who was coming off a victory in the Canadian Open last week, started the final round 10 shots behind and shot 29 on the front nine. A birdie at No. 10 put him three shots behind, but that was all he had. Johnson bogeyed the last hole for a 64 and shared third with Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, who also had a 64. McIlroy shot 73 to tie for sixth.
Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner at Firestone, started 11 shots behind and figured he would go out with a bang by playing aggressively. He turned in a dud, shooting 73 to finish 15 shots behind.
Thomas had gone five months since his last victory, a playoff win at the Honda Classic. While he didn’t feel as though he were playing poorly, he didn’t have the results to back it up. Now he does, and Thomas heads to St. Louis next week for the PGA Championship, where he will try to join Woods as the only players to win back-to-back in stroke play. Woods did it twice.
Georgia Hall of England reeled in Pornanong Phatlum in a final-round duel at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to win the Women’s British Open for her first major title.
Roared on by the large galleries in her home country, the 22-year-old Hall only took the lead for the first time after a 20-foot putt for birdie at the 16th hole and stayed steady to post 5-under 67.
After tapping in for a bogey at No. 18 — her first of the day — to secure a two-shot victory over Pornanong (70), Hall hugged her playing partner from Thailand before being lifted off her feet by her caddie, father Wayne.
Golf-loving Wayne long saw this coming. His daughter was born during the 1996 Masters won by English golfer Nick Faldo at Augusta, Georgia, and she was named as a tribute to that victory.
Twenty-two years later, she has her hands on one of the big five trophies in women’s golf — remarkably her first LPGA title of any sort. The way Hall kept her composure and kept producing the shots of her life down the stretch, there might be more to come.
Hall, who receives a check of $490,000, became the first English major winner since Karen Stupples won this event in 2004, and the fourth overall along with Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas. She followed Stupples and Catriona Matthew of Scotland — who won in 2009 at Lytham — as the only British winners of the Women’s British Open since it achieved major status in 2001.
Andrew Putnam won the Barracuda Championship for his first PGA Tour title, holding off Chad Campbell by four points in the modified Stableford scoring event.
Putnam closed with a 22-foot birdie putt from off the front of the green on the par-5 18th when a bogey would have been enough for the breakthrough victory at Montreux Golf and Country Club.
Putnam earned $$612,000, a two-year tour exemption and a spot next week in the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. The 29-year-old from Tacoma, Washington, also jumped from 55th to 31st in the FedEx Cup standings.
The winner had nine points in the round and 47 overall under the format that awards eight points for albatross, five for eagle, two for birdie and zero for par, and subtracts a point for bogey and three for double bogey or worse.
Campbell birdied the 18th in an 11-point day. The 44-year-old Texan won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2007. He went from 161st to 126th in the FedEx Cup race, with the top 125 after the Wyndham Championship in two weeks keeping their cards and earning playoff spots.
Monday qualifier John Oda, a former UNLV player, tied for third with J.J. Spaun with 38 points. Oda earned a spot in the Wyndham Championship with the top-10 finish.
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
Kenny Perry won the 3M Championship one last time, closing with a 3-under 69 for a three-stroke victory in the PGA Tour Champions event that is being replaced by the PGA Tour’s 3M Open.
Also the 2014 and 2015 winner at TPC Twin Cities, the 57-year-old Perry matched Hale Irwin’s tournament record of three victories in the final edition of the event that started in 1993.
Five shots ahead after rounds of 66 and 60, Perry finished at 21-under 195. Perry won his 10th senior title and first since the 2017 U.S. Senior Open. He won the last of his 14 PGA Tour titles in 2008.
Wes Short Jr. was second after a 63. Playing two groups in front of Perry, Short got within two shots with three holes to go, but Perry made a birdie putt at 16 for a three-shot cushion.
Tom Gillis (67) and Glen Day (70) tied for third at 15 under.
Sepp Straka won the KC Golf Classic on Sunday for his first Web.com Tour title, avoiding a playoff when playing partner Kyle Jones bogeyed the final hole.
Straka, the 25-year-old Austrian who played at the University of Georgia, closed with a 2-under 69 for a 22-under 262 total at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.
Jones had a 71 after opening with rounds of 63, 66 and 63 for a tournament 54-hole record of 21-under-par 192. Straka was a shot back going into the day after shooting 64-65-63.
Straka earned $121,500 to jump from 130th to 29th on the money list with $145,000, with two events left to get into the top 25 and earn a PGA Tour card.
Sam Burns (66) was third at 18 under.
Gaganjeet Bhullar of India won his first European Tour title, closing with a 6-under 66 for a one-shot victory in the Fiji International.
It also was his ninth title on the Asian Tour, which co-sanctioned the event.
Bhullar holed a 40-yard chip for eagle on the par-5 17th at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course. That allowed him to regain the lead over Anthony Quayle, who had made eagle on the same hole moments earlier and closed with a 63.
Bhullar made par on the closing to secure the victory, finishing at 14-under 274.
Ernie Els shot 65 and tied for third with Ben Campbell of New Zealand.
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