Monday Scramble: Golf is gold, but changes can be made

By Ryan LavnerAugust 15, 2016, 5:15 pm

Golf joins the Olympic program, Justin Rose outduels Henrik Stenson, Gil Hanse produces a gem, the regular season is coming to a close and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

After months of handwringing, golf finally returned to the Olympics last week, and you know what? It was a pretty darn good show.

No, it wasn’t perfect. The field was watered down. The format lacked drama. It felt like just another tournament … only it wasn’t.

Rose’s spirited reaction on the 72nd hole said it all. The players in Rio were heavily invested.

What transpired over the past four days was just about the best possible scenario for the Olympic golf movement. A sellout crowd was treated to a stirring duel between a pair of major champions, with another world-class player firing the best round of his career to capture the bronze.

It was just the kind of performance that golf needed to convince the International Olympic Committee that it deserved to stay in the program, despite its lack of star power.

The turnout in Tokyo in 2020 should be even better, as the world's best chase a goal they never knew they wanted. Until now. 


1. For a guy who missed his first 21 cuts as a pro, Rose has amassed a rather impressive career résumé

He won a U.S. Open. He won a World Golf Championships event. He won PGA Tour events on big-boy courses like Congressional and Muirfield Village. 

And now he has a gold medal.

2016 has been a largely forgettable campaign for the classy Englishman, who suffered a back injury in the spring and only recently has begun playing his way back into shape. Rio has been circled on his calendar for months, and it showed.

“I made a big deal of this all year,” he said. 

2. Though it was ecstasy for Rose, it was another what-could-have-been showing for Stenson.

After a performance for the ages at Royal Troon, the Swede was in position to go back-to-back at the PGA before his putter went cold and he made double on the 15th after a few stubbed pitch shots. Two weeks later, he was in a taut battle with Rose before his back “locked up” on the 13th tee. He needed about five minutes of therapy before he could continue. 

Stenson didn’t blame his runner-up finish on his health, but he hit uncharacteristically poor shots on each of the next three holes.

“You can’t say it’s purely down to that,” he said, “but I don’t think it was a helping thing, if I put it that way.” 

A shame, really.



3. Matt Kuchar closed with an 8-under 63 to surge past the rest of the contenders and grab the bronze medal, which was arguably the second-most impressive result of his career.

Even if you can't name any of his non-Players wins, you'll remember he took home the bronze in the first Olympics since 1904. 

It's not a bad haul seeing how Kuchar was (A) was one of the last players in the Olympic field, and (B) unaware of the format until, like, a week and a half ago. (Hopefully he's not at the Olympic course today, waiting for the team competition to begin.)

Remember: Kuchar only became eligible for the Olympics after making a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Firestone last month. That bumped him inside the top 15 in the world. Then he became the fourth and final member of Team USA after both Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth decided to withdraw.

“I’ve never been so happy with a third-place finish in my life,” he said. 

4. As for the rest of the Americans … well, at least they got to meet some other athletes, right?

Patrick Reed closed with 64 to salvage a T-11 finish, but Bubba Watson became an unlikely ambassador for the Olympic Games, calling the experience “one of the greatest golf trips I’ve ever been on.”

Earlier in the week, he joked (we think) that golf “gets in my way” of watching other sports. The same may have been true for Rickie Fowler, whose only on-course highlight was a Saturday 63. He tied for 37th against a mediocre field and added this week’s Wyndham Championship as an emergency start. Few players would don the USA gear more proudly or be a better addition in the team room, but he doesn’t help a Ryder Cup team with golf like this.   



5. One simple way to improve the Olympics? Add a team component. 

It doesn’t even require any additional work! 

Nineteen countries had at least two participants, so just combine the two best 72-hole scores from each squad and crown a team winner. Just like that, the biggest knock on the Games – that the players are competing more for themselves than their country – would be erased.

It's an absolute must for 2020.

6. Oh, and by the way … Stenson would have a gold medal if there were a team race, because he helped lead Sweden (along with David Lingmerth) to the top score overall, 20 under, tied with the United States.

Great Britain (16 under) would have taken bronze, while Spain (15 under) would just miss out. It was a missed opportunity, but the IOC is likely to reexamine the format before Tokyo. 

7. There is a growing chorus of match-play proponents, but there are a few reasons why it wouldn’t work in the Games.

The biggest (and most important): There isn’t enough depth among countries to form two-man teams. Sure, the U.S., Australia, Great Britain and South Africa could all form formidable squads, but what about India? And Brazil? And Thailand? One good player, or even a great one, wouldn't be enough.

The 72-hole stroke-play format is the only way to ensure a somewhat level playing field for the participants.  



8. Three men beamed on the podium, but the happiest man in Rio on Sunday evening might have been Hanse.

The accomplished course designer faced countless obstacles, including lawsuits and delays because of land and environmental concerns, as he tried to build the Olympic venue. It was finally completed at the beginning of the year, not that you would have known watching the competition – the course looked and played flawlessly.

That much was unknown, of course, because the only tournament ever played on the Olympic course was a nine-player test event this spring. After the Games are over, the Olympic course will become the first public course in Brazil. 

Hanse and his indefatigable team deserve their own medal.   

9. In an event with only three medals and no prize money up for grabs, there isn’t much difference between fifth place and 50th

That was the unfortunate reality for Marcus Fraser, the unlikely 36-hole leader who slid into a tie for fifth, five shots back of a medal.

The Australian, who was fifth in line to represent his country in Rio after a spate of WDs, raced out to an opening 63 and led at the halfway point. He wasn’t the same player over the weekend, however, when the pressure ratcheted up. He shot consecutive rounds of 72 while alongside Rose and Stenson, squandering a three-shot cushion over fourth place. 

“I’m a proud Australian!” he tweeted afterward. “I gave it everything I had this week all for our great flag!”



10. Meanwhile, back here in the States … Ryan Moore ended four and a half months of middling play with a two-shot victory at the John Deere Classic.

One of the biggest takeaways here was that Moore is finally healthy. 

He's been battling a left-ankle injury for the past five years, but he began working with trainer Brian Chandler in Las Vegas and reported that this was his first pain-free week during that span. “That’s a huge victory for me to just feel good,” he said. 

Though he isn’t likely to challenge golf’s upper echelon anytime soon – his ball-striking isn’t strong enough to contend on a weekly basis against the world’s best – this was Moore’s fifth career PGA Tour title. That’s the same number as Stenson and John Daly.  

11. Here’s how the FedEx Cup bubble looks heading into the final week of the regular season: 

  • 120. Blayne Barber (465 points)
  • 121. David Toms (455)
  • 122. Seung-Yul No (454)
  • 123. Sung Kang (451)
  • 124. Matt Jones (445)
  • 125. Whee Kim (444)
  • 126. Scott Stallings (443)
  • 127. Kyle Stanley (442)
  • 128. Nick Taylor (441)
  • 129. Steve Marino (429)
  • 130. Bronson Burgoon (428)
  • 131. Morgan Hoffmann (424)
  • 132. Chris Stroud (410)
  • 133. Shawn Stefani (404)
  • 134. Chad Collins (404)
  • 135. Steve Wheatcroft (400)

There were a few notable shifts after the Deere, with runner-up Ben Martin jumping from 121st to 59th; Johnson Wagner going from 125th to 109th; and Whee Kim (who finished third) moving from 154th to squarely on the bubble at 125.

Wheatcroft is one worth watching this week in Greensboro. Don’t forget he was in line for a playoff last month in Canada but got an unlikely break on 18, with his ball settling in a bare spot in the greenside bunker. He tied for fifth there and lost valuable FedEx Cup points.


After missing another cut, the Robert Allenby was arrested at an Illinois casino on Aug. 13 and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.

Even more of a head-scratcher was his response afterward, to USA Today Sports: "There’s nothing to be said or done about. Nothing happened." He said he had "no idea" about the charges, despite the fact that he was, you know, released from jail.

And so continues his troubles over the past 20 months, ever since he was robbed and beaten in Hawaii. 

Surely Allenby will be reprimanded by the Tour for another embarrassing episode, and any time off might do him well – he’s missed 34 of 41 cuts the past two years, including 20 of the past 22. 

This week's award winners ... 

Making The Most of Their Opportunity: Rose, Stenson and Kuchar. It's not just talk: The Olympics probably will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all three medalists. At the 2020 Games, Rose will be 40, Stenson 44 and Kuchar 42. 

So, Everybody is On the Same Team, Right?: Golf’s leaders. Sure seemed odd that both the PGA Tour and USGA held events this week opposite the first Olympic Games in more than a century. The European Tour, meanwhile, was idle. So much for the IOC having golf's "full support."

Random Thought of the Week: Maybe it was a good thing Adam Scott decided to bypass the Olympics – his caddie, Steve Williams, would have destroyed hundreds of fans' cellphones. Sounds like they needed a translator for "PUT THE PHONES AWAY!" 

A Match Made in Watery-Beer Heaven: Smylie Kaufman and Natty Light. Seriously, this is a cool partnership, and a good idea, even if it's the worst beer known to man.

The Power of Math: Tom Watson. Old Tom got a little surly with his caddie at the U.S. Senior Open when he couldn’t quickly crunch the numbers for an approach shot. Yes: 97+17=114.

Auspicious Debut: Aaron Wise. The NCAA champion made his first Tour start at the John Deere, finishing in a tie for 16th. He has spent the summer competing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, where he has a win and a pair of top-15s.  

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Zach Johnson. Back-to-back weeks in this spot for Johnson, who tied for 34th in an event where he'd finished third or better in six of the past seven years. Sigh.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.) 

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Teenager Im wins Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.