In golf they say your second win is often harder to get than your first, and two up and coming European players, Jordan Smith and Seamus Power, reached that landmark on Sunday.
Winning one tournament makes you feel like you’ve arrived, but the second one makes you feel like it wasn’t a fluke. For self-belief it’s very important.
Smith claimed his second title on the European circuit in fantastic style at the Portugal Masters, where the Englishman finished on 30 under par.
That score surpassed the tour’s previous lowest, Ernie Els’s 29 under par at the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2003, but does not make the record books because of preferred lies.
It has taken Smith five years to add to his victory at the European Open but it has been coming. He has been in really good form this year, with two runners-up finishes and several more top-10s, including two in the last month. This should now open the floodgates.
I’ve chatted to Smith before and he seemed like a really dedicated boy who loves the game. The 29-year-old has a classic style with a really good swing but what stood out over the weekend was how well he retained his balance and rhythm. It was exquisite.
He was under a fair bit of pressure too, with Gavin Green not willing to give up the fight. And when adversity came along and he had to take a drop after a wayward tee shot at the 11th, he handled it well, recovering superbly to save par.
This win has propelled Smith into the top 10 on the DP World Tour and 81st in the world rankings. He is also now in the mix for a Ryder Cup debut next year.
With only six automatic qualifiers to the European team from the two points lists, it will be tough for anyone not in the world’s top 50, so that has to be one of Smith’s next targets.
Power joins Smith in Ryder Cup frame
Power was already in that promised land and is now up to 32nd in the world after winning his second PGA Tour title in Bermuda at the weekend.
The Irishman only had to wait just over a year to add to his maiden win and that certainly helps. Nothing breeds success like success; the more you win, the better you get.
At 35, he is something of a late bloomer, having worked his way up to the PGA Tour on the US scene, but every time I have seen him he has been very impressive. He has a great swing and a very strong game.
Power is another in contention for a first Ryder Cup appearance next year and has given himself a great chance.
Being in the top 50 of the world rankings means he can play just about any tournament that he wants, which will only help his cause.
Card battle shows strength of European circuit
While the focus in Portugal may have been on Smith, the pressure was just as great on the players battling to retain their DP World Tour cards in the last counting event.
In the end, no one who started the week inside the top 117 on the points list dropped below the cut-off point, which I think reflects well on the strength of the tour.
And that is only underlined when players as good as Italian Renato Paratore, who climbed the list but couldn’t get higher than 118th, narrowly missed out.
LIV Golf Team Championship delivers close finish
I watched the finale to the LIV Golf Team Championship on Sunday, in which Dustin Johnson’s 4 Aces beat Cameron Smith’s Punch GC to the title.
Johnson produced a great finish that made the difference as his team won by just one shot in the end.
Having won four of the seven team events in this first season, they have been the dominant side. Smith, meanwhile, shot seven under par yet still ended up missing out.