Monday Scramble: Week full of emotion and aces

By Mercer BaggsMay 25, 2015, 12:30 pm

Chris Kirk wins again; Jordan Spieth contends again; and Rory McIlroy misses the cut, not really again, but for the third time in two years, in this Ryan Lavner-free edition of Monday Scramble:

Stars aligned for the LPGA last year. The PGA Tour is the beneficiary of good fortune in 2015. Kirk's 72nd hole par-save to avoid a four-way playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational was the latest in a string of compelling finishes.

  • McIlroy won Wells Fargo by seven, but it was Rory, which made it worth watching
  • Rickie Fowler prevailed in a three-way playoff at The Players
  • McIlroy won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. It wasn't great theater, but, again, it was Rory
  • Justin Rose birdied 17 and 18 to win the Zurich Classic by one
  • Jim Furyk broke a five-year winless drought by winning in a playoff at the RBC Heritage
  • Spieth dominated in his breakout triumph at the Masters

Those are the most recent examples, but save for the odd week here and there, the Tour has produced world-class winners and dramatic finishes the entire year.

This week could have been a disaster, with multiple weather delays and the potential for another tape-delayed conclusion. And the event might have been better off, from a macro perspective, had Spieth won in a playoff. But, all in all, it was another entertaining Sunday on Tour. That's what the fans want. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. I saw that on a poster with a tortoise.

1. Before we dive into the past week, let's do some real remembering. It's Memorial Day. While it’s not easy to accurately determine, well over one million American men and women have died during service in war time, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. If you haven’t been affected directly, you likely know someone who has. Bless the fallen and pray for their survivors. And for those who have fought and lived, and those still willing to fight, do something for them. Say thank you in person. Buy them lunch. Donate to an organization of assistance like Folds of Honor. Create a care package with your kids; teach them the significance of the sacrifices others have made. Sometimes all people want is a little appreciation for the effort they make.

2. When Chris Kirk won the Viking Classic in 2011, didn't think much of it. When he won the McGladrey Classic in '13, still didn't give him much consideration. When he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in '14, I paid attention (more so than Tom Watson). And now: Time to apologize for my ignorance.

Nowadays, four wins on the PGA Tour gets you in the Hall of Fame conversation, right? What Kirk has done is impressive. He's reached that stage where he now needs to show us something in the majors. That's a good thing. That means you've accomplished enough in regular events to warrant major attention. Kirk has played in nine majors and has a best finish of T-19 at last year's British Open.

How you perform in those is the ultimate career definer. Kirk is still getting his feet wet in the big events. But after four Tour wins, it's time for him to make a splash.


3. If not for that triple bogey on Friday. If not for the terrible bogey at No. 16 on Sunday. What could have been for Spieth? He was a few mistakes away from winning for the third time this year and moving closer to McIlroy for No. 1 in the world rankings. But, as someone once said, it is what it is. Spieth's T-2 was his third runner-up showing of the season, to go along with a pair of victories. No need to talk about who's PGA Tour POY front-runner. It's Spieth, without argument. And, for the record, he got 0.42 points closer to McIlroy in the OWGR. Which still leaves him 4.04 points in arrears - about the distance between Spieth and No. 12 Jimmy Walker.

4. Speaking of the world No. 1 - he had the weekend off after his BMW PGA MC. Over two rounds at Wentworth Golf Club, Rory looked like ... not Rory. He was horrible off the tee, which led to an astute observation from Golf Channel's Frank Nobilo, who stated that McIlroy lacks a second gear with his driver. It's Thor's hammer when it's working. When it's not, he's Moses without a map.

People say we shouldn't compare McIlroy to Tiger Woods, particularly when it comes to consistency. But we should. It should serve as a reminder as to how brilliant Woods was; not a knock on McIlroy. Rory is like a Tiger-Phil Mickelson Frankenstein. He's an amalgam of both, capable of histrionics and befuddlment.

What will we see at the U.S. Open? We did a Punch Shot earlier in the week, asking if McIlroy would be fatigued entering Chambers Bay. He definitely looked wiped at Wentworth. This week's Irish Open, where he is tournament host, promises to be tiring as well, but he'll have two weeks off before the Open. McIlroy is the betting favorite, but I'd put my money elsewhere. Then again, I'm just a backup Monday Scramble writer. What do I know? 


5. Byeong-hun An won the BMW PGA Championship by six shots, setting a 72-hole tournament scoring record with his 21-under 267 total. For his efforts he earned:

  • Roughly $917,000
  • A three-year European Tour exemption
  • Spots in the U.S. and British Opens
  • A jump from 132nd to 54th in the Official World Golf Ranking

6. An is just the eighth U.S. Amatuer champion to win on the European or PGA tours since Woods re-popularized the event in mid-‘90s. Here are the professional highlights for the last 18 Amateur winners, dating back to 1997.

Gunn Yang (2014):

T-65 at Crowne Plaza, first made cut in five Tour starts. Still an amateur.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (2013):

European Tour member in '15. One top-10 finish.

Steven Fox (2012):

Won '14 Tennessee Open (state event). Runner-up finish in '15 on PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

Kelly Kraft (2011):

Won once on Tour ('15).

Peter Uihlein (2010):

Won once on European Tour ('13).

Byeong-hun An (2009):

Won once on European Tour ('15).

Danny Lee (2008):

Won once on European Tour ('09), once on Tour ('11).

Colt Knost (2007):

Two Tour wins.

Richie Ramsey (2006):

Three European Tour wins.

Edoardo Molinari (2005):

Two European Tour wins. Member of '10 European Ryder Cup team.

Ryan Moore (2004):

Four PGA Tour wins.

Nick Flanagan (2003):

Four Tour wins.

Ricky Barnes (2002):

T-2 at '09 U.S. Open. Over $5.8M in Tour earnings.

Bubba Dickerson (2001):

One Tour win ('09).

Jeff Quinney (2000):

One Tour win ('04).

David Gossett (1999):

One PGA Tour win ('01).

Hank Kuehne (1998):

Two runner-up finishes on PGA Tour.

Matt Kuchar (1997):

Seven PGA Tour wins.


7. Colin Montgomerie successfully defended his title at the Senior PGA Championship on an exteremely challenging French Lick (Ind.) Resort course. Only five players finished under par and Monty was at 8 under, four shots clear of Esteban Toldeo and five removed from Woody Austin. He will try and repeat in June at the U.S. Senior Open, where he defeated Gene Sauers in a playoff last year. This is his third triumph in his last six senior major starts. But Dan Jenkins is probably not impressed.

8. Kevin Na led by one shot over Ian Poulter and by two over Charley Hoffman entering the final round at Colonial. None in the final threesome broke par. Na (2-over 72) and Hoffman (70) tied for 10th, while Poulter (70) tied for fifth. As Golf Channel's Nick Menta pointed out, they were the only players in the top 23 who didn't post a red number on Sunday.

9. Um, have you seen the scores at the NCAA Women's Division I National Championship? They're I-just-woke-up-and-I-don't-know-where-I-am scary. To explain why, as the ladies are set to air on Golf Channel for the first time, Monday-Wednesday, I defer to college expert and Monday Scramble orginator Ryan Lavner. Click here to read his column.

10. Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari were among players trying to earn spots into the U.S. and British Opens this past week. Molinari led the BMW PGA through three rounds, but closed in 2-over 74 to finish fifth. Still, at 58th in the OWGR, he made it into the U.S. Open. He needed to be top 50 to make it into the British, which means he may need to go through qualifying to compete at St. Andrews.

Donald, meanwhile, failed in both attempts. He can still make it to Chambers Bay through the OWGR if he can crack the top 60 as of June 15 (he's currently 65th). He'll likely have to go through qualifying, however, to make the British Open field. Donald (T-38) was in good shape this past week until a third-round 77 derailed him. Some have labeled him the worst No. 1 player ever. But that's like calling him the ugliest supermodel. Only 17 players since the OWGR's inception in 1986 have been ranked No. 1. He's one of them, and he took the No. 1 spot on four separate occassions. You can critcize him for what he hasn't done, but don't slight him for what he accomplished.


Spectators occasionally get wacked in the head by an errant drive. It’s a risk you take when you buy a ticket. And if you stand in pine straw, 20 feet in front and 20 degree to the right of a player who just hit a tee shot 40 yards off line, the consequences are on you.

But nowhere is it more dangerous for fans than in pro-ams. They're all just deer in a field, man. Deer in a field.

This unassuming fella didn't get the memo. He's watching One Direction's Niall Horan tee off Wednesday at Wentworth, not taking into consideration that the gallery rope isn't a forcefield and that this kid sings in a boy band and does not play golf professionally, when Holy $&@!

The best part - aside from the wholely appropriate language we had to censor - was that Horan offers no audible or visual contrition. In the full video (which you can see here, uncensored), the guy credits his youth as a "goal-keeper" for his deft move to avoid death. Ladies and gentlemen, the British Al Bundy.

They were handing out car keys at the BMW PGA. Four aces were made and we've got them all. Well, we have three of them, as Craig Lee's didn't make tape, which is fine since he didn't win a car and withdrew after an opening 75, anyway.

  • We begin with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who made a hole-in-one for the second time in as many weeks and set a new European Tour record with 10 in his career:

  • Chris Wood won a BMW i8 with his ace. It's always amusing watching a tall man (he's 6'5") get into a tiny car:

  • Andrew "Beef" Johnston had the celebration of the week after his hole-in-one on Thursday:

  • And for good measure, we offer up a Tommy Fleetwood albatross:

  • A few other tidbits from the week: Billy Horshel used Periscope to showcase his practice rounds at Chambers Bay, while Poulter used the same social media device to talk with - presumably - fans while waiting for his weather-delayed first round to start at Colonial. Periscope allows people to showcase themselves - doing whatever they want - through video to others. Just download the app and you can watch a bare-chested Romanian man make pizza. Splendid. If anything, it could be used in the Ludovico Technique for aversion therapy to narcissism. ... U.S. Open local qualifiers and U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifiers were held this past week  ... People really got in a tizzy over McIlroy throwing a club in Round 2 at the BMW PGA. ... Even more so than when he told the BBC prior to the tournament that he might retire around the age of 40. ... And do what? Move to Del Boca Vista and run for condo president?
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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.