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. 

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.