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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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.