Monday Scramble: Sights, sounds and surprises

By Mercer BaggsOctober 5, 2015, 3:30 pm

It's raining PGA Tour cards in Ponte Vedra Beach (!), the Presidents Cup is upon us (!), and Anthony Kim speaks (!) in this week's super exciting edition of Monday Scramble.

He's alive! He's alive! He's aliiiive!

Anthony Kim spoke to the Associated Press in a story released early Tuesday morning. In it, Kim said he was suffering through multiple injuries over the years and was going to "step away from the game for a little while" to rehab his body.

Step away? From what? So Kim is now going to really, truly, honestly not play professional golf? Yes. Triple stamp, no errasies.

Kim is a fascinating figure because he dropped off the radar and left the public wondering why. But, more so, it has to do with his demeanor and perception. Any number of three-time Tour winners could go MIA and we wouldn't stop setting our fantasy football lineups to notice. But Kim was young, brash and he partied. He sported long hair and big belt buckles (scandalous!). Add in reports of multiple tattoos with occasional rumors and you have a guy who, in the golf world, is ripe for celeb-type gossip and intrigue.

Let's hope he plays on Tour again, and doesn't step away from stepping away from stepping away. The Tour is deep with young talent, 20-somethings who are gifted, marketable and personalbe. But there's still an element of flavor missing. An extra does of spice to what Patrick Reed offers. Otherwise we live in a golf world where Rickie Fowler is considered "extreme." Sigh.

1. Jordan Spieth was named Player of the Year on Friday. That's what a 1-1-4-2 finish in majors, along with three other Tour wins and a FedEx Cup title will get you. That and $22 million. Commissioner Tim Finchem refuses to make voting results public. It's hard to fathom this wasn't unanimous, but, if it wasn't, that shows why such Skull-and-Bones secrecy is detrimental. The more you hold people accountable, the closer you get to honest results.

2. The Tour's Rookie of the Year was - one can only imagine without actual percentages to gauge - a much closer contest. Daniel Berger prevailed over Justin Thomas, Nick Taylor and Tony Finau. It seems pretty clear-cut: If you can make the Tour Championship, you can win ROY. But what really matters is where Berger goes from here. The last seven Rookie of the Year winners have combined for 10 Tour victories since their freshman honor, and eight of those have come from two players: Speith and Fowler. Berger is also the first player since Fowler in 2010 to win ROY without winning a Tour event.

3. Jim Furyk made it official on Friday when he announced that a lingering wrist injury would keep him out of the Presidents Cup. Furyk, who has a 20-10-3 record in seven Presidents Cup appearances, will serve as an assistant captain to Jay Haas. J.B. Holmes was selected to replace him. This is one of those things where you could debate the effect that this will have on the U.S. team ... but then you remember it's the Presidents Cup and it probably won't affect the outcome.



4. Emiliano Grillo captured the Web.com Tour Championship and was one of 25 players to earn PGA Tour cards through the finals series. Added to the 25 players who were already in based on their seasonal earnings and that's 50 new/returning members to the Big League. Chez Reavie leads the way, with Rob Oppenheim claiming the final spot by $101 over Eric Axley. Check out Will Gray's column for more on Oppenheim and the final-day drama.

5. Oppenheim was one of five players to crack the finals' top 25 in the final event, along with Derek Fathauer, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Robert Garrigus and Thomas Aiken. Garrigus got it done by making an 11-foot par putt on his final hole. The five who dropped out: Axley, Ryan Spears, Steve Allan, Justin Hicks and Jhonattan Vegas. Don't worry, boys, there's always Q-School. Oh, wait. No there's not.

6. Suzann Pettersen gave a one-on-one interview to Golf Channel's Tim Rosaforte this past week, in which she again apologized for her actions at the Solheim Cup. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell, however, wanted more answers. Pettersen certainly deserves her share of blame over what transpired on the 17th hole that Saturday in Germany, but not to be forgotten: Alison Lee picked up her ball when her putt was not conceded. She kick-started the controversy with her carelessness. Regardless of what she thought she heard or maybe what she assumed, Lee deserves a heap of blame placed on her shoulders.



7. SMU's men's golf team received a post-season ban and reduction of scholarships after the NCAA found multiple violations involving recruiting and unethical conduct under former head coach Josh Gregory. The penalty means senior Bryson DeChambeau will not be able to defend his individual national championship title. Obviously, the punishment doesn't fit the crime, but NCAA "justice" doesn't care who suffers as long as someone pays the price. Gregory, who cannot coach in college until 2019, told GolfChannel.com that he feels "terrible for the kids" and that he has "no desire" to work with the NCAA again. That's rich.

8. Last Wednesday marked the one-year-out-iversary of the 2016 Ryder Cup. Opposing captains Davis Love III and Darren Clarke were showcased and interviewed at Hazeltine National. Love spoke about possibly being a playing captain and leading a team that might not include Woods or Phil Mickelson. Clarke discussed the difficulties in being captain and how he hopes to extend Europe's dominance. And, of course, both men already view themselves as underdogs.

9. Thunderbear HO! Thojborn Olesen captured his third career European Tour victory by winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Olesen was a chic name after a pair of top-10s in the Open Championship and Masters in 2012 and '13, respectively. But he simmered down and also dealt with a hand injury that sidelined him for three months this season. He now has a signature win to his credit, having won an event contested over three high profile venues: the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. Lion-O would be proud.

10. Americans acquitted themselves well in Scotland at the Dunhill Links. Brooks Koepka and Chris Stroud finished co-runners-up, while 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink tied for ninth. There's really not much else to add. We're filling space here, people.

Did you hear the one about Tiger Woods being a Ryder Cup assistant in 2016? 

Yeah, Judge, that's a doozy.

No, it's not a joke. Davis Love said he'd love to have him if he doesn't make the team and Notah Begay said he'd be a great fit. Definite possibility.

Wait, is that where we are in Tiger's career? How did we get here so fast? I wasn't ready for this. Uh-oh ...

Ever see "The Ring"? The movie where you watch a video and seven days later an evil creature emerges from your TV screen to get you. If you haven't seen the video below of Ernie Els from Thursday at the Alfred Dunhill Links, be forewarned. And if you have, beware. The yips might be coming to getcha.


Bubba Watson appeared with former college coach Chris Haack on SEC Network's Saturday pregame in Athens, Ga., where Georgia was taking on Alabama. Watson took a shot at Tebow, which one should never do, even in jest. Tebow, who had some good moments against the Bulldogs, picked 'Bama to win. 'Bama throttled Georgia.


Lexi Thompson posted a pair of hole-in-one accomplishments, on back-to-back days, to social media. Different holes, different clubs, different shoes, same course.


Jin Cheng, 17 from China, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship after the final round was cancelled because of heavy rain and high winds. Hello, Augusta!


Fred Couples turned 56 on Saturday. He celebrated by avoiding human contact and not knowing it was his birthday.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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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.”