After weeks of rain and generally awful weather, the skies cleared and the sun shone on the 2016 edition of the Olympic major. L'Emperuer was the venue for the 3rd major of the season, hosted by Icaro. Some changes were made to the course since the last time the tour stopped by. The fescue was longer in places - putting a premium on accurracy, and the greens were soft but fast and smooth - making for some interesting putting.
In the match play format, blind draws meant everyone was watching the others for cues on how they might be doing.
Jon started strong with 4 pars and a birdie on the front 9, making the turn on 41 despite a triple on the 2nd.
Nic showed flashes of brilliance with 2 pars and a birdie in the first 5 holes, but it was dulled a bit by the double and the quad mixed in. The birdie settled him a bit en route to a solid 46.
After a rough couple of holes to start, Icaro settled down with a couple pars and a few bogeys, shaking off a triple amidst that run for a first half 48.
Jeff began brilliantly with a pair of pars before a rough stretch in the middle cost him dearly. He still made the turn on 48 and looked poised to strike on the back 9.
Unfortunately, the back 9 struck first and hard with 4 solid red numbers in the first 6 holes derailed Jeff's round. A strong par-bogey-par finish - including an incredible drive on the 18th that found the green (and a few steak points) - may have eased the sting a little as he finished with a 48-57-105 (+33).
Nic similarly felt the wrath of the back 9 as the first few holes were all but kind. Amazingly, Nic finished with 3 birdies in the final 4 holes - the first of which was a pitch over a bunker to a raised green (fortunately, Icaro was in a position to see the ball roll into the cup). The birdies pulled back some of the strokes lost early in the half and he turned in a 46-48-94 (+22) for the day.
Jon was not immune to the dangers of the back 9, either. After struggling through 11-12-13, he collected himself and rallied for a solid finish. After such a strong front 9, it was a bit of a let down on the back half. 41-47-88 (+16)
Icaro was the only one that seemed to put up a fight against the back 9. He took a max on the 14th, but a bogey-par extravaganza gave him a solid closing half for a 47-46-93.
The blind draw saw teammates pitted against each in the first round. In the opening match, it was Sales vs Marketing. Icaro gave up one stroke to Nic - who took advantage of it - but it was early in the round so Icaro had a chance to recover. Nic took the early lead with a par on the opening hole and held onto it through out the front 9, pushing it to 3 holes at one point before Icaro pulled a couple back to make the turn 1 down.
Icaro rode the momentum into the back 9 and turned the deficit into an advantage by winning the first 4 holes to go to 3UP. Nic wasn't going to go down without a fight and his 3 birdies in the last 4 holes helped him pull the match to level after 18.
In the tiebreaker, Icaro's strong opening holes gave him a big enough lead to hold off Nic and advance to the finals.
The second matchup was I vs T, brother vs brother, yin vs yang, mano vs mano. With Jeff getting 7 strokes from Jon, this shaped up to be a challenging matchup, and through the front side, it was tight. Jeff took advantage of his strokes to push a three holes and keep the match close, trailing by 1 going into the inward 9.
The back 9 was not as kind. Jeff's rough start to the back side saw Jon extend his lead to 4UP. Only able to win and push his final 2 stroke holes left him 3DOWN and the match finished on the 15th when Jon took advantage of Jeff's errant tee shot to book his place in the final with a 4&3 victory.
Jeff got a stroke from Nic in the 3rd place match, but it wasn't a factor as Jeff easily won the hole. The front 9 was a tightly contested affair, with neither gaining more than a 1 hole advantage and at the turn the match as ALL SQUARE.
Nic took advantage of Jeff's quad barrage to open the back side and after giving one back to Jeff, Nic closed it out with a birdie for a 4&3 win and the 1 point that comes with 3rd place.
In the finals, Jon gave up 5 strokes to Icaro, but surprisingly, they didn't really come into play on the front 9. Icaro outright won one hole, forced a push with the 2nd and Jon bested the 3rd. Jon's strong start to the round saw him forge a 3UP lead on the way out, but it wouldn't stay that way for long. Icaro erased the deficit within the first 4 holes on the way in and the match was on. Jon would never trail, but as soon as he took the lead back, Icaro levelled it right back. A well-timed par on the 17th gave Jon the lead heading into the 18th where each would 3 putt their way to bogey. It is Jon's 8th career major and it gives him a spot in the year-end Tour Championship.
Nic remains atop the table, but his unqualified average dropped to 3.667. With the Summer holidays coming up, he may struggle to get enough rounds to qualify for the McGasparsson. With the victory, Jon boosted his average to 2.889. Icaro's 2nd place finish improved his average to 1.667. Jeff's average dropped to 0.889 after receiving no points.
King of 3s
Jon added 3 points to his total, giving him 10 to top the table. Icaro grabbed the remaining points and sits in 2nd on 4 points.
Jon stayed atop the scoring table, increasing his average to 33.143. Icaro rose to 31.714, Nic rose to 31.500 and Jeff remained the same at 30.000
Nic and Jon paired up for a hotly contested 2&1 victory. With the win, Jon moved to 4 points while Nic garnered his 1st point of the season.
After a tight front 9 that saw IT take an early lead, S&M brought it back to level at the turn before going on a run to easily take home their first victory of the season, 5&3.
Nic's 4 birdies tied the most in a round originally set by Jon on 2 Aug 2014 at L'Emperuer... After years of trying, Jeff drove the green on the 18th with a left-to-right drive... 3 players (Jeff, Nic, Jon) have earned spots in the field of the Tour Championship.