Inbee Park takes home gold, Si Woo Kim wins the Wyndam, Darren Clarke's European Ryder Cup team is nearly set and more in this week's Monday Scramble.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson's battle for the gold medal was a heck of an opening act at the Olympics. And while the race for gold wasn't nearly as exciting for the women, it was still an incredible two weeks in Rio for golf.
It's been mentioned already, but it's worth repeating – the sport is in better shape than it was two weeks ago. And could there be a better endorsement for golf's inclusion in the Olympics?
There were plenty of concerns heading into the Games, but the top players rose to the occasion and it became clear early on that, yes, this was something bigger than another 72-hole, stroke-play event.
In the end, six medals were handed out to six different countries – Great Britain, Sweden, the United States, Korea, New Zealand and China. Those who missed out on the podium were heartbroken when the realization hit that it would be another four years before they would get another chance.
With great attendance in Rio and strong TV ratings, it would be very surprising not to see golf become a fixture at the Olympics, long past Tokyo in 2020.
1. After she won her fourth different major title last year (and seventh of her career), our Randall Mell wrote that Park “closed with a vengeance” when she came from three back to take the Women’s British at Turnberry.
Saturday in Rio, she cruised with a vengeance. As her playing competitors, Lydia Ko and Gerina Piller, struggled with the wind – or perhaps the grand stage – early in the round, Park went out in a bogey-free 4-under 31 two go from up two to up six.
Yes, a hard-charging Shanshan Feng quickly cut the lead to three, but the result was never in doubt. Park displayed her signature staid demeanor as she left the field in the dust and reasserted herself as a dominant force in the women’s game after months of injury and absence and doubt.
2. Speaking of which, it sounds like we can press pause on the idea of any imminent retirement. While she’s been honest about wanting to start a family in the near future, Park told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis after the gold medal ceremony that “there is no plan for retirement at the moment.”
“I really haven’t planned for anything,” she said, “so I’m just going to go day by day and see.”
Regardless of how she performed in Rio or how she wants to wind down her career, Park always owed it to herself to play the Evian next month. Her win at Turnberry prompted a lot of hand-wringing when it came to whether Park had actually won the career Grand Slam, given her claim to only four of the LPGA’s current five major titles. [She won the Evian before it was deemed a major.]
Frankly, the debate was and remains silly. Whatever we do or don’t call it, we all know the circumstances and the facts. There were five majors, then four, now five again. Park has four. Call it what you want.
3. A Park victory at next month's Evian would mean an end to the equivocating. She would become only the second player in the game’s history to win five different majors, joining Karrie Webb, who won the now-defunct du Maurier in 1999.
Park is already the only player in history to own multiple majors and Olympic gold. While wunderkinds like Ko and Brooke Henderson will have the opportunity to play in 50 majors over the next 10 years, they’ll only be able to play in the Olympics twice over that same span.
It’s going to be hard enough to win a medal on its own. If Park is able to complete the Grand Slam and boast Olympic gold, she could be in a class by herself for a long time. She probably already is.
4. While we’re discussing gold, the medals that belong to Park and Rose are going to be held in higher esteem four years from now in Tokyo.
Both the men’s and women’s medal stands were filled with three of the top-15 players in the world. Both events benefitted from the major-championship pedigrees of their contenders. Who knows what the world will look like in 2020, but it’s highly unlikely Tokyo will resemble Rio.
Let’s assume there won’t be a mosquito-transmitted virus, polluted water or unpaid police forces. Short of a zombie apocalypse, the top players in the world will go, they will be excited and the IGF will fully realize its dream for Olympic golf.
The scarcity of opportunity will make Olympic medals precious commodities. Now let’s announce Bill Murray as the official 2020 mascot and enjoy relaxing times.
5. With respect to both Japan and the medal stand, Haru Nomura and Stacy Lewis missed out on a potential playoff for bronze Saturday by a combined ... three inches? Maybe four? Lewis arrived at the 72nd hole 9 under for the week and left her birdie putt hanging on the edge, one roll short. Had it dropped, she would have tied Feng at 10 under, forcing a playoff had all things stayed the same (which they probably would have – more on that in a minute).
Nomura, on the other hand, unknowingly cost herself a medal during the first round on Wednesday when she missed this backhanded tap-in attempt.
6. As for that would-be playoff, Terry Gannon, Annika Sorenstam and Curt Byrum made a point during the coverage to hammer home that Feng does not look at leaderboards down the stretch.
Gannon could best be described as mildly apoplectic, and it’s hard to disagree with him. There is a logic to playing with blinders on, but when you’re coming down the stretch, wouldn’t you want to know what you need to do to win? It’s impossible to say whether Feng would have done anything differently, whether her three-putt par at 18 would have somehow turned into something else. It’s just hard to get over that look of pleasant surprise that came to her face when she finally looked at the leaderboard.
7. Poor Gerina Piller. But you know what? Good for you, Gerina Piller. It’s refreshing to see athletes who care this much.
Contrast Piller’s emotion, resolve and general level of give-a-damn with Dustin Johnson last year at Chambers Bay. Who is more relatable? Who is more likeable? Who are you more likely to root for in the future? Hold your head high, Gerina Piller. You’ll be back.
8. There is still one more week until it's official, but Clarke's Ryder Cup team is almost complete. With a fifth-place finish at the Czech Masters, Matthew Fitzpatrick secured the ninth spot on the team, and no matter what happens this week there won't be any scenario where someone can pass him.
That means the automatic qualifiers for Clarke's team are: Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Danny Willett, Open champion Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andy Sullivan and Fitzpatrick.
A nice mix of major champions, Ryder Cup veterans and rookies who are proven winners.
Clarke will have an extra week to ponder his three picks before the August 29 deadline. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are likely picks, but Shane Lowry, Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters are all strong contenders for Clarke's consideration.
9. The race to make Davis Love III's U.S. team will be a juicy subplot at The Barclays. One thing is for sure with each passing week, it is getting harder and harder for Love not to pick Jim Furyk.
He dropped from T-3 to T-10 Sunday with a sloppy double bogey on 18, but Furyk still moved up to No. 15 in the U.S. standings. Incredibly impressive since his season didn't begin until May, and he didn't start making a serious move up the rankings until a T-2 at the U.S. Open.
10. So who is looking like the odd-man out? Fowler hasn't done much this summer, and even worse his putter has been chilly. But Holmes hasn't been stellar, either. He missed his third cut in a row at the Wyndham, and fourth in his last five events. The last time he made the cut, he finished third at The Open.
11. Thanks to a rain delay, Si Woo Kim had to wait a little longer for his first PGA Tour win that was never in doubt on Sunday. The 21-year-old Korean became the youngest winner of the season, and the youngest international winner since Seve Ballesteros (20) won in Greensboro in 1978.
This will be a strong contender for the WTH? Hall of Fame.
In the final round of the Web.com Tour's News Sentinel Open, there was a threesome of Jhared Hack, Adam Schenk and Ryan Yip
That's right – Hack, Schenk and Yip.
Not quite a legendary threesome like Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, but still unforgettable, nonetheless.
This week's award winners ...
More International Flavor: As if the Olympics didn't prove how global golf has become, for the third time in four years the U.S. Amateur champion is from outside the U.S. Australia's Curtis Luck won eight consecutive holes on his way to defeating Oklahoma's Brad Dalke, 6 and 4, in the 36-hole finale.
Ace is the Place: Scott Brown is making quite the name for himself at the Wyndham without taking home the trophy. Last year he made an ace in the final round at the par-3 third while paired with Tiger Woods. On Sunday, he aced the same hole again, this time with Boo Weekley as his witness.
That's Nice, But ...: Brown's ace was remarkable, but it didn't payoff as handsomely as Luke Donald's. Donald made a hole-in-one Thursday at the par-3 16th to win vacations for life at Wyndham Resorts. And as if his week wasn't going well already, Donald finished second, collected a six-figure paycheck and now he heads into the playoffs with a great chance to make the Tour Championship.
Talk About Some VIPs: Before the playoffs start, Rory McIlroy and buddy Niall Horan of One Direction watched Ireland's Conor McGregor defeat Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in Las Vegas.