Monday Scramble: Green with envy

By Ryan LavnerApril 17, 2017, 3:00 pm

Wesley Bryan wins in his home state, Ian Poulter has a make-or-break week, Lydia Ko fires another caddie, the bros hit the Bahamas and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:

Bryan’s life story is a movie waiting to be made – his improbable rise from struggling mini-tour player, to popular trick-shot artist with millions of YouTube hits, to dominant Tour Player of the Year, and now to PGA Tour winner, after his hard-fought victory at the RBC Heritage.

There were no tricks to his win Sunday, closing with a 4-under 67 to erase a four-shot deficit entering the final round.

It’s a life-changing title for the 27-year-old, who now has earned his way into all of the big events, including next year’s Masters – the rarest of home games for the current Augusta, Ga., resident.

Bryan went to the Masters this past year, eating pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches, and following one of his pals, Russell Henley, during the opening round.


“I can call it my home golf course for the next 51 weeks,” he said. 

Just another chapter in his incredible journey. 

1. The circuit is often marketed as the gateway to the PGA Tour, but not often is it such a direct route to the winner’s circle.

In fact, Bryan became just the third reigning Player of the Year to win the following season on Tour.  

The others were Zach Johnson (2004) and Stewart Cink (1997).  

2. Is there a worse spot than the 54-hole leader at Hilton Head?

The last six winners there all have come from behind – by three or more shots, too. It’s the only Tour event to hold that distinction. 

3. Bryan also became the first Tour winner to quote Ron Burgundy in his post-round news conference.

When asked to explain how his life has flipped upside down over the past 15 months, he said: “I don’t know. Will Ferrell said it best: ‘That escalated quickly.’ Honestly, I’ve got no idea. It’s still kind of surreal.” 

4. Sure, Luke Donald needed a good finish, regardless of the tournament. But at some point it has to be frustrating to come so close, so often to winning at Harbour Town.

The Englishman shot 68 in the final round to finish second there for the fifth time. It was his record seventh top-3 overall.

And he's still looking for his first win there.

“I just keep trying,” he said. “Obviously it’s a place I feel comfortable and I like and I’ve had a lot of success. I’ve got to just keep pounding away, and hopefully I’ll get there.” 

5. Ian Poulter was one of the most animated players on the course Sunday, and he had no chance to win. That’s because he was fighting for his card.

Last week at Hilton Head and this week in San Antonio, he needed to earn $144,669 or 117.75 FedEx Cup points to satisfy the requirements of his major medical extension.

He came up about $30,000 shy, which means he’ll need to make the cut – and make up the difference – this week at TPC San Antonio, which is one of the hardest courses on Tour. He tied for 37th in his only appearance there, in 2013.

“I’m a little hot under the collar right now,” he said. “I’m not disappointed I didn’t get the job done today in terms of finishing where I need to finish, but that today could have been a victory and I let it slip.”

Poulter shot 73 and finished five back. 

6. What was it that sent Jason Dufner reeling at the Heritage?

No doubt, his putter was the biggest culprit – no one was worse Sunday, as he lost a whopping 3.59 strokes to the field on the greens, took 34 swipes and sank only 35 feet worth of putts.

Dufner tumbled from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 11th.

Others would argue it was karma. Video surfaced of Dufner, after making bogey on the fifth hole, rudely dropping his putter by the hole that his caddie was forced to scoop up. He got skewered on social media, and he went 5 over for his next 10 holes. Coincidence, we think not. 

7. One of the few things that didn’t go right for Paul Dunne last week at the European Tour’s Trophe Hassan II was the arrival of his luggage. It didn't make it until Saturday night.

That led Dunne to go shopping in Rabat.

“I have to apologize to my sponsors,” he said, “that I’m wearing random clothes which I bought in a shop because I lost my suitcase and it’s being found as we speak. I’ve had none of my own clothes this week; I had to buy them in the shops.”

Dunne, who played college golf at Alabama-Birmingham, rose to fame at the 2015 Open at St. Andrews, where he shared the 54-hole lead, the first amateur in that spot since 1927.

Dunne hadn’t enjoyed much pro success (just two top-10s) until traveling to Morocco. He lost the playoff to Edoardo Molinari, after the Italian birdied 17, made eagle on 18 and then won the title with a par on the first extra hole. It was Molinari's first Euro Tour victory in seven years.

8. The Zurich Classic won’t offer world-ranking points this year, but that hasn’t deterred some of the world’s best from teeing it up in what should be a fun format.

Switching this year to a two-man team competition that will feature both foursomes and fourball matches – the first on Tour since 1981 – has brought together seven of the top 10 players in the world.

The latest to commit was Jordan Spieth, who will partner with fellow Texan and close friend Ryan Palmer. Some of the other teams include: Jason Day-Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley, Bubba Watson-J.B. Holmes, Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger-Thomas Pieters.

The novelty may wear off after a year or two, but it just goes to show how today’s players appreciate outside-the-box thinking, even without world-ranking points on offer. 

9. Cristie Kerr played her last 52 holes without a bogey to overtake leader Su-Yeon Jang and capture the Lotte Championship.

Kerr closed with rounds of 62-66 and broke the tournament record at 20-under 268. It was the 39-year-old’s 19th career LPGA title.

It is the second victory of the year for the Americans (Brittany Lincicome, Pure Silk Bahamas). That matched their output from all of last year.

10. In danger of losing her world No. 1 ranking, Lydia Ko responded by finishing in a tie for second in Hawaii. It was her best finish of the season.

So Yeon Ryu could have overtaken Ko with a victory and if Ko finished fifth or worse.

Though she held on to the top ranking for at least the next two weeks, Ko is in the midst of a 16-event winless drought, the longest of her career.

In 16 starts since the Women’s British, she has only seven top-10s; No. 3 Ariya Jutanugarn, meanwhile, has 14 top-10s in 18 appearances during that span. 

11. And perhaps that was enough to lead Ko to make more changes. After the Lotte, she fired another caddie, this time Gary Matthews, after only nine events. She has developed a rather unflattering reputation ... 

While the #SB2K17 crew reconvened in Baker’s Bay for another week of sun and fun, all your trusty correspondent did last week was drive seven hours home from Augusta, Ga.; head to the doctor for a yearly checkup; complete a few hours of yard work; wait five hours for a plumber; and then clean the entire house before and after Easter brunch.

Yep, these guys win. Again. 

This week's award winners ... 

Still Some Beef: Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington. It was interesting to see how Sergio was depicted – first as the ultimate sportsman after his thrilling playoff victory at Augusta, then as the petulant “sore loser” that Harrington saw a decade earlier. Garcia's transformation has been remarkable – and much-needed. 

Hit It Hard: Ollie Schniederjans. The hatless wonder had another chance to win Sunday, and it appears his go-to shot under pressure is to hit it hard. Really hard. On the last two holes, he smoked a pitching wedge 180 and 184 yards. Unfortunately for him, he needed more club on 17, with his tee shot expiring in the bunker short and leading to a bogey. 

Golf Quote of the Year: Bryan, describing what it felt like once he got to the 17th tee with the lead: “Honestly, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. And I was like, Shoot, I guess this is what nervous feels like.” 

Undecided: Maverick McNealy. The world No. 1 amateur and newly named Hogan Award winner – given to the graduating senior who excels on and off the course – said last week that he is still no closer to making a decision on whether to turn pro or remain an amateur after college. The guess here is that he’ll give the pro ranks a try, if only to see how good he can be, but the next few months will be telling. He'll remain an amateur at least through the Walker Cup in September.

All Good Things …: Bernhard Langer. His second-round 73 Saturday at TPC Sugarloaf snapped his record streak of 36 consecutive rounds of par or better on the PGA Tour Champions. Fittingly, he bounced back the next day with a 65, the best round of the day, to finish second. Because of course he did. 

Best wishes: Bruce Lietzke. The 13-time Tour winner will undergo surgery today to remove a brain tumor. 

Four Weeks Too Late: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1, who withdrew from the Masters after a freak back injury, committed to return at the Wells Fargo in early May. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive victory. 

Good Advice for Next Time: John Peterson. Note to self: Take a week off after a bender. 

No Need To Tell Us About …: Your round at Augusta. Unless it leads to a larger discussion, like this, there is no need for media members to offer a blow-by-blow of their embarrassing 100-plus score the day after the Masters. 

When You Have Your Own Spring Break Getaway: Gary Player. Well done, sir. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Jim Furyk. He owns one of the best records at Harbour Town, and he appeared in good shape after an opening 68. Then he inexplicably sank to a 74 in easy morning conditions to miss the cut by a shot. Sigh. 

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Teenager Im wins season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.