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 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. 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 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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.