March is a big month for the world’s best players, as they get the chance to earn massive world-ranking points and win two prestigious WGC Titles in the WGC Mexico Championship and the WGS Dell Technologies Matchplay. Meanwhile, we can also look forward to the Valspar Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Houston Open, and the first ever PGA Event played in the Dominican Republic in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
European Tour February Round Up
The Super 6 in Perth certainly lived up to its billing as an exciting new initiative as the 36-hole leaders Brett Rumford and Lee Westwood both somehow failed to make it into the final 24 as the pressure told. However, one man who proved he could handle the pressure was the eventual winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat. The Thai player needed to play the eighteenth hole seven times just to make it into the final stages as he showed abundant stamina to take the title. February also saw Joost Luiten back in the winners’ enclosure as the Dutchman won the Oman Open, whilst Eddie Pepperell won the Qatar Masters for what could be the first of many titles now he’s finally fulfilled some of his amateur potential.
PGA Tour February Round Up
Despite all the big names on the PGA Tour, there’s something heart-warming about watching an underdog beat them all. That’s exactly what Ted Potter Jnr did at Pebble Beach as he claimed the AT &T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. However, that was the only real shock of the month as Bubba Watson went on to win his third Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, and Justin Thomas built on a decent showing in the 2017 Honda Classic to take the title in a play-off in 2018.
European Tour Events in March
WGC Mexico Championship – March 1-4
Tshwane Open – March 1-4
Hero Indian Open – March 8-11
WGC Dell Technologies Match Play – March 21-25
WGC Mexico Championship
The first WGC of the season was first played in Spain in 1999 and was played in Ireland, England and the USA before 2006. It then took place at Doral in Florida for 10-years before the PGA Tour took the event away from the Donald Trump owned course and moved it to the Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City in 2017. However, despite nomadic tendencies, this tournament tends to be won by a major champion such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickleson or Adam Scott, whilst Dustin Johnson has won it twice in the last three years including last year’s event. DJ again heads the betting for the 2018 WGC Mexico Championship, with last week’s Honda Classic winner Justin Thomas second favourite. European number one Tommy Fleetwood also looks one to watch out for as he was second here last year and comes here in great form.
Meanwhile, for European Tour players whose world ranking isn’t high enough for them to get in the WGC Mexico Championship, there is also the Tshwane Open in South Africa this week. For the fourth year running, it takes places at the Pretoria Golf Club where the last three winners have been Dean Burmester, Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee. Coetzee again heads the market, but doesn’t find winning easy, so Alexander Bjork is fancied to make a bold each-way bid after being fifth here on his debut in 2017.
Hero Indian Open
The Indian Open joined the European Tour as a co-sanctioned event in 2015 and the first three renewals have all been won by Indian players. It was Anirban Lahiri in 2015, whilst SSP Chawrasia has won the last two renewals. Both of those players look sure to bid for more success in their home open, whilst India’s new golfing hero Shubhankar Sharma looks sure to make a bold bid for a third European Tour win which would extend his lead in the Race To Dubai. Other European stars who have this tournament on their schedule include Thomas Bjorn, Thongchai Jaidee, Chris Wood and Andrew Johnston, whilst Argentinean PGA Tour star Emiliano Grillo may also play.
WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
The second WGC of 2018 sees the world’s best 64 available players line up in a rare matchplay format, rather than the usual strokeplay format. The players are split up into groups of four for a round robin, with the winners of each group progressing to the straight knockout stages. The event again returns to Austin Texas, where it was played last year, and Dustin Johnson beat John Rahm in the final.
The group stages tend to throw up some unexpected winners though, as the other fourteen groups in last year’s event were won by Zach Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren, Ross Fisher, Bubba Watson, Hideto Tanihara, Paul Casey, Soren Kjeldson, William McGirt, Charles Howell III, Marc Leishman, Phil Mickleson, Kevin Na, and Bill Haas. That meant only four of 16 seeds made it to the knockout stages.
PGA Tour Events in March
WGC Mexico Championship 1-4 March (see above)
Valspar Championship 8-11 March
Arnold Palmer Invitational 15-18 March
WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay 21-25 March (see above)
Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Houston Open March 28 – 1 April
Played on the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Gold Club in Tampa, this tournament started in 2000, since when it has been known under a variety of names since becoming the Valspar Championship in 2014. Since then it has been won by John Senden, Jordan Spieth, Charl Schwartzel and Adam Hadwin, with winning scores being –7, -10, -7 and –14.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Golf Club is the venue for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event which can be traced back to 1966 under its various previous names. American golfers have a tremendous record in this event having won 45 of the 53 renewals. However, Australians Marc Leishman and Jason Day have won the last two editions. Day was especially impressive here in 2016 when winning with a total of –17, whilst early-priced thieves may want to snap up any big-prices about Matt Every who won in both 2014 and 2015.
Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Whilst most of the world’s best players will be at the WGC Matchplay this week, the rest of the PGA Tour players have the option of being part of the first ever PGA tournament to be played in the Dominican Republic. The event was part if the Web.com Tour in 2017 when it was won by Nate Lashley.
The Houston Open has a serious role of honour with the inaugural tournament in 1946 being won by Byron Nelson, whilst Bobby Locke won it the year after. Since then, the likes of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Curtis Strange, Raymond Floyd, David Duval, Vijay Singh, Freddie Couples and Phil Mickelson have won the title. However, recent winners have been more difficult to find with the likes of DA Points, Matt Jones, JB Holmes, Jim Herman and Russell Henly adding their names to that role of honour.
Top 50 Watch
Last month’s top 50 watch threw up a winner in Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whilst Webb Simpson managed a place in the Honda Classic, and those two now look to have assured a place in the US Masters in April.
Players who will be looking to gate-crash the top-50 soon include Cameron Smith, who showed up well at Riviera recently. Meanwhile, the likes of Russell Henley, Adam Scott and Kevin Na all have plenty of form in up and coming tournaments that makes them worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks. On the European Tour, Joost Luiten could easily have another win in him now he’s found the winning groove again, whilst Julian Suri is a young American who has a big game when at his best.
The battle for Ryder Cup places continues, and both Joost Luiten and Eddie Pepperrell made significant moves with their wins in February. Both have given themselves genuine chances of earning a spot in the European Team, though their inclusion would come at the expense of better players who have yet to hit top form this season such as Rory McIlroy. Meanwhile, Bubba Watson made a significant move in the US Ryder Cup Standings.
European Points List
World Points List
USA Ryder Cup Standings