Kuchar cruises to victory in Hero Challenge; Shubhankar eliminated

Kuchar beat countryman Charley Hoffman in the all-American final as the players teed off from the specially erected platform at a target 80 metres away on the Castle Esplanade.

Sharma, grouped alongside Poulter and Cabrera-Bello, was eliminated at the group stage after failing to stop the ball inside the marked circles in any of his five attempts. (File Photo)   -  Getty Images

America’s Matt Kuchar exhibited remarkable accuracy in finding the ‘Bull’s Eye’ more than once en route to winning the Hero Challenge golf tournament against the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

Playing in front of more than 4,000 highly vocal and enthusiastic spectators, the six stars — Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Charley Hoffman, Shubhankar Sharma, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Richie Ramsay — thrilled the crowd at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s amphitheatre in front of the Edinburgh Castle.

Kuchar beat countryman Charley Hoffman in the all-American final as the players teed off from the specially erected platform at a target 80 metres away on the Castle Esplanade.

Sharma, grouped alongside Poulter and Cabrera-Bello, was eliminated at the group stage after failing to stop the ball inside the marked circles in any of his five attempts. From the other group, Hoffman and Kuchar came through as local man Ramsay exited.

Kuchar gave an indication of things to come when he beat Poulter with the help of the first ‘Bull's Eye’ of the night in the second semifinal. Earlier, Hoffman accounted for defending Scottish Open champion Cabrera-Bello in the first semifinal.

READ: Shubhankar to play golf at Edinburgh Castle ahead of Scottish Open

In the final, Kuchar landed the first ball in the outer circle and the second in the ‘Bull’s Eye’ before giving up his third shot to the host, Vernon Kay for fun, while he took up the microphone.

Kuchar, a top draw at the Scottish Open this week and next week’s Open, said: "It is just an amazing venue, what a cool backdrop. The number of fans and the energy that was here tonight just made it really exciting to be part of this event."

"I think there was some luck involved in the bullseyes. I’m surprised that it went my way as much as it did. It was the luck of the bounce a little bit, but I certainly had the distance and direction looking good. It was awfully nice to end it with a ‘Bull's Eye’ there at the end."

The Hero Challenge was introduced at the British Masters in 2016 and was followed by three editions last year at the British Masters, Scottish Open and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

In Ponte Vedra

Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri is excited about the changes in the latest schedule released by the PGA Tour for the 2018-19 season.

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The PGA Tour has unveiled a revamped tournament schedule with changes for players and fans with significant championships every month and culminating with the FedExCup Playoffs in August.

The most important changes, which had been indicated earlier, are the movement of THE PLAYERS Championship from May to March (March 11-17) and the PGA Championship moves from August to May 13-19.

Also, the FedExCup Playoffs will feature three events, instead of four, with the Northern Trust (August 5-11 with 125-player field); the BMW Championship, (Aug 12-18 with 70 players); and the TOUR Championship (Aug 19-25 with 30 players).

The final World Golf Championships event of the season, until now staged in Akron, Ohio, will be held from July 22-28 at TPC Southwind in Memphis as the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, replacing FedEx St. Jude Classic. Two new tournaments will also come in.

The Houston Open and A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier will move to the fall and will be played next as part of the 2019-20 schedule, and will, therefore, not feature in 2018-19.

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Lahiri, who has been on the PGA Tour since 2015, said, "It is very exciting. With Majors moving, and the Players moving, we were all waiting for the schedule to figure out how to attack next year. It is going to be very interesting with the schedule becoming more compact as well. You will see a lot more players in the Fall Season."

He added, "The biggest thing in next year’s schedule is that we are going to have 2-3 events less. So, people will play will a little more early in the season to get a head start. As the next few years go, the Fall season will get a lot more important. Till five years ago, there really was no schedule as such for Fall. Going ahead, it will have 20% of the season, which goes longer and deeper. The approach to the Fall and the rest of the season will also be different."

The FedeXCup will also end before the start of the football season, allowing more spectator interest.

In Silvis

Arjun Atwal was on the back nine of the Monday qualifier when he received the news that he had got into the main draw of the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour this week.

Atwal, the only Indian winner ever on the PGA Tour was the seventh alternate and was not sure of getting into the main draw. So, he went for the Monday qualifiers before he got the good news.

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However, with a number of players pulling out, Atwal got the call while still playing. Atwal will be in the same group as friend Daniel Chopra, who has two PGA wins against his name.

"I am really looking forward to teeing up at John Deere Classic and the following week at Barbasol. Hopefully, I will get a few more spots," said Atwal.

Interestingly, the John Deere Classic is also the last event with two spots for The Open next week. Atwal has also got into the Barbasol Championships, which is scheduled against The Open next week.

This season Atwal has had two starts, the first at Sanderson Farms last Fall and this year at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championships. He missed the cut at both. Over the last few years, Atwal has managed six to eight starts, but has been unable to make a big impression.

Playing at the co-sanctioned AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, he finished second late last year and this year, he was T-10 at the Myanmar Open on Asian Tour. Last year, he was also T-7 in Taiwan on Asian Tour.