Monday Scramble: Hurley's tale too good to be true

By Ryan LavnerJune 27, 2016, 4:00 pm

Billy Hurley III authors the story of the year, Jon Rahm dazzles in his debut, the Olympic problem grows deeper, Lydia Ko wins again and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

If this were a Hollywood script, you wouldn’t believe it.

A former Naval officer, in the shadow of the nation’s capital, at the tournament where he asked for help finding his missing father, with his career at a standstill … and he wins? He takes home $1.24 million, earns status for two years, and gets into the Masters and a bevy of other big events?

No way.

There are great stories, and then there is what Hurley did Sunday at Congressional, with Woods, the tournament host, looking on. Hurley, who spent five years in the Navy navigating ships through the Suez Canal, won the tournament that was created in 2007 to honor the military.

It was an emotional end to what has been the most trying year of his professional career.

Last year, at the Quicken Loans, he used a pre-tournament news conference to spread awareness that his father, Willard, was missing. Willard died less than a month later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Last fall, Hurley missed out on a PGA Tour card by less than $400, dropping him back down to the minor leagues. He didn’t have a top-40 in 11 starts this season and contemplated retirement. The only reason he played the Quicken Loans was because Woods gave him a sponsor exemption. 

And then it ended like this, with a clutch chip-in, a teary finish, a life-changing victory. It's a story almost too good to be true.


1. One of my favorite stories I’ve ever done was on Hurley in May 2011, less than a week after Osama bin Laden was killed. 

During his mandatory five-year tour of duty, Hurley was aboard a destroyer in Bahrain and the Persian Gulf. He was off the coast of Djibouti and in the Red Sea. He was near the heart of terrorism in the Middle East. 

That week in 2011, Hurley was set to play in a Monday qualifier for a Web.com event in Athens, Ga., but a half hour before the qualifier, tournament officials told him that he’d received the final sponsor exemption. After bin Laden was killed, they wanted an opportunity to honor a serviceman. “I don’t know if it was karma or fate or luck,” the tournament director said then, “but it just lined up perfectly.” 

Hurley told me that he’d probably still be in the Navy if he didn’t feel golf’s pull. “And the thing is,” he said, “the better I play, the more exposure I’ll give the military.” 

Well, there was no better publicity than his feel-good victory at Congressional. 

2. Hurley’s past life will always be a part of his PGA Tour career. On the eve of the final round, he was hanging around in his hotel room, reading. His manager had told him to stay away from his cellphone and social media, but he couldn’t ignore this phone call: Admiral Mike Mullen's number popped up on the caller ID.

“I sat there for a second and I was like, you know what? When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls, you answer the phone,” Hurley said.

They talked for only three or four minutes, about how proud Mullen and the rest of the military and Naval Academy were of Hurley. But the pep talk turned out to be just what he needed.


3. Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson told me recently that Rahm reminds him of his Hall of Fame brother, but that the 21-year-old Spaniard is much better off the tee. Many of the coaches and players who knew him well said they expected him to become a top-5 player in the world, a perennial European Ryder Cupper. 

If Rahm’s pro debut was any indication, he’s well on his way. 

A week after tying for 21st at Oakmont, he powered his way to a share of the 36-hole lead before settling for a tie for third at the Quicken Loans. We'll see him plenty over the next month – he's slated to tee it up at The Open, Canadian Open, John Deere and Travelers – as he tries to earn status for next season.

4. Rickie Fowler snapped a string of three consecutive missed cuts, but his T-44 finish (and 73-74 weekend) at Congressional suggested that his game is still a touch off as we roll into the heart of the season, with a WGC and three majors in a seven-week span. 

Though Fowler says he’s “definitely not concerned” about the state of his game, he pointed to his driving and putting as the culprits. He worked with Butch Harmon on his setup Sunday at Oakmont and noticed his body wasn’t rotating through the ball like it normally does (caused by not being in the proper position at the top).

Can this be corrected in time to salvage a year that has seen Fowler’s game take a step back? Of course, because it's a fine line between missing the cut and contending. But there's no doubt he's losing valuable time.



5. It was a(nother) bad week for Olympic golf, with three notable players turning down an opportunity to represent their country at the upcoming Summer Games.

This has been a problem for a few months, of course, with several major champions declining a spot because of scheduling reasons or uncertainty surrounding the Zika virus. What will be more interesting moving forward is how Rory McIlroy’s absence, in particular, will affect a few of the other boldfaced names, with Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett and Fowler all less than 100 percent committed. 

Will they join the parade of players who stepped aside? Or will they feel corporate pressure (Coca-Cola and Adidas are big Olympic sponsors) to make the trip to Rio? The deadline for qualifying is July 11. 

6. All of the withdrawals have put a damper on golf’s return after a 112-year absence, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed outside of our little bubble.

In an interview with a New Zealand radio station, International Olympic Committee member Barry Maister described the number of dropouts as “appalling” and said that if golf can’t put together a high-quality field, then it shouldn’t be allowed to continue as a medal sport.

“Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second- or third-rate players is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic movement,” he said. “The Olympics is about the best, and they pledged the best. Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there.” 

Ironic, seeing how it was the IOC that chose Rio, with its contaminated water, mosquito population, safety concerns and crumbling economy. As I wrote here, less than 100 percent participation should be blamed not on golf’s status as an Olympic sport but rather on the host venue. Even with a far from ideal summer schedule, players likely would compete in the Olympics if it were held in Chicago, London, Tokyo, Sydney, etc. 



7. Though it was far from definitive, Woods suggested Sunday what many have expected for months: He is unlikely to play this year. 

In an interview with CBS during the final round, the tournament host said that he’s playing golf at home but that he “needs more time.”

“I still need to get stronger,” he said, “I need to recover faster, and that’s going to take time.”

Earlier in the week, Woods said that he’s able to play 18 consecutive holes, but that he’s not in golf shape – unable to play four or five days in a row, and practice before and after the round, without soreness. Only when (or if) he is able to do that can he begin to seriously consider a return to the Tour. And that, as he said, is going to take time. 

8. Ko continues to prompt Tiger-like comparisons with her dominant play on the LPGA. Sunday in Arkansas, she won for the 13th time on the LPGA. It’s her third consecutive season with at least three victories.

How overwhelming has she been this year? Consider that she leads the tour in these statistical categories: Player of the Year, Race to the CME Globe, official money, putts per GIR, putting average, scoring average, rounds under par and rounds in the 60s. 

9. After a number of close calls over the past 19 months – 14 top-five finishes, to be exact – Henrik Stenson finally broke through after a marathon Sunday at the BMW International Open. 

Peculiar timing, too, for Stenson withdrew from the U.S. Open with neck and knee injuries and said he would need another MRI in the near future. (He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last winter.) Though some long-term concerns remain, this was an important step for the 40-year-old, especially with a busy stretch coming up. 

“It feels like I’ve got a nice little boost now in the right direction with the confidence,” he said.



10. How badly did the USGA bungle Dustin Johnson’s U.S. Open penalty? Eight days later, they’re still getting hammered for it.

Early last week, the blue blazers apologized for causing the distraction that not only affected Johnson but also the rest of the field that was left in a strange limbo on the back nine of a major. Mike Davis insists that his charges followed the rulebook, but its handling of the situation should lead to changes moving forward. It also put a brighter spotlight on how course setup has gotten out of control, with insane greens speeds, slope and gravity likely causing Johnson’s ball to move, not the player himself.

Slugger White, the vice president of rules and competitions for the PGA Tour, told News-JournalOnline.com that he wants to see the rule amended to allow for the replacement of a ball that moves without being touched. Nah, that makes too much sense. 

11. The PGA Tour canceled next week’s Greenbrier Classic after devastating flooding hit the region over the past week. Host venue The Old White TPC has suffered extensive damage and is beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament.

It’s just the third time in the past 20 years that a Tour event has been canceled because of weather, and the first since the 2009 Viking Classic. 

An unlikely beneficiary here was this week’s opposite-field event, the Barracuda Championship, which now will offer a spot into The Open for the top finisher (among the top five) not already eligible. 

Shane Lowry is generously listed at 224 pounds, and an Irish Examiner writer suggested last week – without any, you know, actual reporting – that Lowry’s weight was to blame for his sluggish Sunday performance at Oakmont that cost him the U.S. Open title.

“A contributing factor to Lowry’s slippage had to be mental fatigue brought on by physical fatigue,” he wrote. “The more tired you are, the more prone to being distracted you are. You lose concentration; you overly internalize. You’re not as confidence as you could be.”

True, Lowry needed to play a few extra holes Sunday to complete his third round, but his doughy physique didn’t seem to bother him as he stormed to a four-shot lead after 54 holes. He simply had a bad day, his closing 76 leaving him in a tie for second. It was still his best result in a major. 

Last we checked, Lowry isn’t an NFL running back. He doesn’t need speed, agility and quickness. He doesn’t need to shed tacklers, be light on his feet and go all-out for 60 minutes. All he needs is to be able to swing around his body about 40 times a round, and so far, he’s done OK for himself at his current playing weight: He’s a three-time winner, including last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

You do you, Shane. 

This week's award winners ... 


Early Retirement?: Jason Day. Now 28, the world No. 1 says he will reevaluate his career once he turns 40 and decide whether to continue playing. It wouldn't surprise if this becomes a trend: If today's stars are no longer able to win majors because the rest of the Tour is younger, fitter, longer and hungrier, they're in a unique position in that they'll already have earned more than enough money to call it quits early.

At Least One Member of the Woods Family Will Get Some Reps This Year: Charlie Woods. Following in his famous dad’s footsteps, Woods’ 7-year-old son, Charlie, tied for second in a U.S. Kids Golf South Florida Tour event, with Tiger briefly leaving his hosting duties in D.C. to watch the nine-hole tournament. Woods is famous for saying that second place is simply first loser, but here’s guessing he’ll strike a different tone after this event.  

All-Name Team: Sherman “Champagne” Santiwiwatthanaphong. She's a winner on the Symetra Tour, though you probably won't find that surname on an agate page anytime soon.



PGA Tour-bound: Ollie Schniederjans. The former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world won on the Web.com Tour Sunday and locked up a spot on the big tour next season. Get used to seeing him, because he’s every bit as good as fellow high school class of 2011 members Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger.  

Ticking Clock: Bryson DeChambeau. It looked like a slam-dunk after his auspicious pro debut at the Heritage, but the intriguing 22-year-old now has only two starts remaining this season to earn the 361 points necessary to claim special temporary membership for the rest of the season. (He has accrued 215 FedEx Cup points.) He'll also play the Canadian Open and Travelers, which would give him the maximum 13 starts allowed for non-members. If nothing else, he's assured of being inside the top 200 and earning a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals.

Red-Hot: Collin Morikawa. In the past two weeks, the rising sophomore at Cal closed with 62 to win the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur, then went 63-63 on the weekend to reach a playoff at the Web.com Tour's Air Capital Classic. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Patrick Reed. Yes, he made the cut, which is better than most that have landed in this section this year, but his tie for 38th at Congressional was a massive disappointment for fantasy leaguers and a player who has a Tour-best nine top-10s this season. Sigh.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''