Monday Scramble: Full range of emotions

By Ryan LavnerJune 5, 2017, 3:30 pm

Tiger Woods news goes viral, Jason Dufner breaks through at Muirfield Village, Phil Mickelson plans to skip the U.S. Open and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

There now are a few images by which we will remember Woods, golf legend and, like the rest of us, flawed human.

Nothing can take away the uppercut fist pump at the 1997 Masters or the chip-in celebration at the 2005 Masters or the primal scream at the 2008 U.S. Open. Those will forever be etched into our memories.

But what has happened in the nine years since Woods won his last major are necessary details that fill in the entire picture: The apology in front of the velvet curtain. The shot that brought him to his knees at the 2013 Barclays.

And now, finally, the infamous mug shot, the picture of Woods, at 4 a.m., with that disoriented look and those sad, sullen eyes, a photo that live on the web for eons, right alongside the fist pump and the chip-in celebration and the primal scream.

Indeed, the images of euphoria and embarrassment, they are both a part of his story now, the first sports star to be undone in the internet age. 

1. The closer he got to the hole, the shakier he became, so it was fitting Sunday that from way downtown Dufner drained a 33-footer for an unlikely par and a victory at The Memorial.

It was his longest made putt of the week, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, after he was able to advance his second shot only 75 yards out of the thick, juicy, wet rough. He ended up a winner by three shots, though it wasn’t that close all day. 

2. It’s a testament to Dufner’s resilience that he was able to shake off a sluggish Saturday round and win for the fifth time on Tour.

Leading by five at the halfway point – after a tournament record 14-under 130 to start – he trailed by four shots when he walked off the course Saturday. His 77 wound up being the second-highest score by a Tour winner in the past 35 years (Kenny Knox had an 80 in the 1986 Honda).

“I had to get over it quick,” Dufner said. “It’s a 72-hole tournament, and there’s a lot of things that can happen out there. I just needed to get myself together.”

Despite a pair of weather delays, he bounced back with an inward 32 to storm to victory. 

The comeback was reminiscent of how Dufner won his first major, at the 2013 PGA. He tied a record with a second-round 63, struggled to keep it together during a Saturday 71, and then overcame a final-round deficit with a closing 68.

3. So about that short putting … even Dufner recognizes that it “might not look pretty.”

And it sure doesn’t. He stands over the ball for an inordinate amount of time, waiting to pull the trigger. When he finally does, his stroke is short and jabby. He missed five times inside 7 feet in the third round, but on Sunday he was able to shake in enough shorties to keep the round going, including an important 3-footer on 17 that gave him a two-shot cushion.

Dufner is well outside the top 100 in putting from 3 feet, 5 feet and 7 feet.

“The short ones I’ve struggled with in my career,” he said. “I make more than I miss, I can promise you that, even though they might not look pretty.” 

Rickie Fowler

4. It was Duf’s day, but several other players had a chance to win.

No one was in a better position than 54-hole leader Daniel Summerhays, who told himself all day, “Today is your day. Today is your day.” It wasn’t, as he shot a final-round 78 (including a back-nine 41) to fall all the way into a tie for 10th.

Matt Kuchar had another chance to win, like he seemingly always does as Muirfield Village, but he made three bogeys on the back nine. That gave him his fifth top-5 there.

Rickie Fowler briefly grabbed the lead, but the afternoon rain caused some jumpers off the clubface and he airmailed a few greens late. He played the last seven holes in 2 over.

Justin Thomas looked ready to win for the fourth time this season, but he missed short putts on 13 and 14, then scrambled just to make par on the par-5 15th after his approach sailed miles right of the green. 

5. This was Fowler's 10th runner-up finish on Tour.

That seems like a big number for such a young player, and it is, but keep in mind that Jordan Spieth has one more close call (11) while playing in 71 fewer events. Spieth has also won more times on Tour, 9-4.

Fire up all of the tired "Rickie-is-too-nice-to-be-a-closer" hot takes. 

“You have to put yourself in position,” Fowler said. “You have to be up there to get the job done. And it just shows you that you don’t necessarily get the job done a high percentage of the time. You just have to be in contention. The more that you’re there, ultimately, the more that you’re going to win.”  

6. Mickelson’s pursuit of the career Grand Slam will have to wait another year, as he plans to skip the U.S. Open at Erin Hills to attend his daughter’s high school graduation.

"I mean obviously it's the tournament I want to win the most," he said. "But this is one of those moments where you look back on life and you just don't want to miss it. I'll be really glad that I was there and present."

This is the same daughter, Amanda, who arrived a day after the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, which began Lefty’s long and tortured relationship with our national open. The president of her graduating class, Amanda will attend Brown in the fall. 

7. So let’s just get this out of the way …

Was this merely a power play by Phil to get Amanda’s small private high school, Pacific Ridge in San Diego, to move the graduation ceremony a day earlier, to Wednesday?

Mickelson was asked Saturday if there was any talk of shifting the times to accommodate his schedule.

“No, there’s not,” he said. “I wouldn’t put them in that situation.”

But with the school now on full blast, and because of Mickelson’s well-known desire to capture the Open, doesn’t it seem possible that they’ll move things around for their local hero? 

8. If he doesn't play, this isn’t necessarily a death knell for the soon-to-be 47-year-old’s hopes of eventually getting off the Open schneid.

The upcoming venues for the year’s second major: Shinnecock, Pebble Beach and Winged Foot. 

9. The LPGA projections were incorrect, and there is NOT a new No. 1 in women’s golf.

Lydia Ko stayed in the top spot for another week, despite continuing to lose points in the two-year rolling cycle. She is now just .01 points of Ariya Jutanugarn.

Most interesting: Neither Ko nor Jutanugarn has won this year. Which brings us to ... 

10. It’s been a year of parity for the LPGA.

I.K. Kim became the 13th different winner in 13 events this year, as she won the Shoprite LPGA

Last year seemed to mark the beginning of a Ko-Jutanugarn duel for global supremacy. So far, it has yet to materialize, and that's bad news for the women's game. 

11. For the past two weeks, your trusty correspondent has covered the men’s and women’s NCAA Championships at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago.

Arizona State won the women’s final, while Oklahoma took home the hardware for the men.

This year’s results continued an amazing streak: The top seed after stroke-play qualifying, the team playing the best that week, has still never gone on to win the title, which is determined in match play. The No. 1 seeds are now 0-for-12.

What’s the deal?

Maybe it's just a statistical anomaly, but it doesn’t sit well with some coaches that the four rounds of stroke play determine the match-play bracket, 1 through 8. It’s just a qualifier, after all, and a team’s entire body of work is thrown out. That’s what happened in 2009, when the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country squared off in the first round of match play because of how they fared in the stroke-play portion. By the end of the day, both teams were gone. It’s actually a surprise that scenario doesn’t happen more often.

In no other sport can the two best teams face off in anything other than the finals. The suggestion here is to treat the 72 holes of stroke play just like any other tournament, plug those scores into Golfstat’s rankings system, and then spit out the new rankings entering match play. It would take just a few minutes. This would ensure that the best teams all season have what is statistically the easiest route to the championship. That doesn’t mean they’ll win the title more often – anything can happen in 5-on-5 match play, of course – but it at least offers the highest probability.   

Many media outlets were criticized for showing dashcam and breathalyzer video of Woods’ DUI arrest, because the details in the police report provided a pretty good sense of what had transpired in the early-morning hours on Memorial Day.

An explanation: 

For starters, this is a news organization, and any information pertaining to the arrest of one of the most famous athletes in the world is newsworthy. Secondly, the police didn’t release the information just to publicly shame Woods – the information was available via an open-records request, just as it would be for your neighbor or your boss. That these videos also served as a public-service announcement about the dangers of DUIs was an added bonus for the cops. 

Did it seem like overkill, since Woods in his statement didn’t dispute any of the facts of the arrest? Maybe. But it still was in the public’s best interest to show the video, to illuminate the process of the arrest and to be transparent.

This week's award winners ... 

About to Be Under the Microscope: Bernhard Langer. He just became the most prolific major winner in senior golf history, but Hank Haney tweeted out this video, which appears to show Langer creating an anchor point for his long putter, which would be illegal.

All’s Still Not Right: Jordan Spieth’s putting. For the third time in four events, Spieth lost strokes to the field on the greens – something that seemed unfathomable for arguably the best putter in the world. He was middle of the pack at Muirfield Village, ranking 47th and looking uncomfortable over the shorties. He still tied for 13th.

Ready to Go: Rory McIlroy. Crisis averted. After missing the BMW PGA and The Memorial because his rib injury flared up, the world No. 2 confirmed that he’ll be able to play next week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He has spent the past two weeks recovering and preparing at Quinta do Lago in Portugal. 

Not What It Seems: Jason Day’s “home-course advantage.” Yes, J-Day lives in Columbus, and he is a member at Muirfield Village, but the only time he usually plays there is during tournament week, and he hadn’t logged any prep time there this year. Clearly, it doesn’t fit his eye – he doesn’t have a top-10 there in nine tries, including a T-15 last week, after making the cut on the number.

Good Week: Sam Burns. His team didn’t make match play at NCAAs, but the LSU sophomore, who will turn pro after the Walker Cup in September, earned the Nicklaus Award, which comes with a spot in next year’s Memorial Tournament, and then won the Barbasol Shootout to grab a spot in the Tour's opposite-field event this summer. 

Um, You Get These For Free: Zac Blair. Being frugal is one thing. This is quite another. 

Someone to Emulate: Renato Paratore. Not only did he earn his card at 17, but the latest European Tour winner plays at a blistering pace that was refreshing to see among a younger set that gets criticized for dawdling. 

Look Out For: Matthias Schwab. The Vanderbilt star turned pro on Monday and will begin the next chapter of his career in Europe. Though not as flashy (or as talented) as some of the big names to leave college recently, he figures to make a lot of money someday. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Dustin Johnson and/or Jon Rahm. So they are in fact human. The two hottest players in golf both missed the cut at The Memorial … which only means more prep time for their (inevitable) showdown at the Open. 

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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.