Monday Scramble: Looking 'back' on the week

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2017, 3:00 pm

Pat Perez cruises, Tiger Woods dons the Sunday red, Tyrrell Hatton stays hot, President Donald Trump goes low and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

If only the PGA Tour still gave out a Comeback Player of the Year award. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than Pat Perez.

A year ago, the often-combustible journeyman had turned 40, was coming off shoulder surgery and was ranked outside the top 300 in the world. He accepted a sponsor exemption into the CIMB Classic, and his career turned upside down (in a good way).

After his impressive victory in Malaysia, he now has twice as many Tour wins in the past 11 months as he did in his previous 15 years on Tour.

It’s a product of hard work, good health, and maybe even a little revenge, after one of his equipment companies dropped him.

For one of golf's most unique characters, it's been a unique path back to competitive relevance.

1. Perez is already well on his way to backing up one career year with another.

Check out all his career bests a year ago: Best FedExCup finish  (15th – his first time reaching the Tour Championship). Most money earned ($4.36 million). Most top-25s (14). And the fewest cuts missed (three).

And he seems intent to keep rolling.

“I’m not going to change anything,” he said. “I’m still not going to work out. I’ll still have a bad diet and I’m going to enjoy myself. I’ve got my group of friends and that type of stuff. But I’m just taking it a day at a time. That’s all I’m doing. I don’t look in the past. I’m just kind of doing it.” 

2. Speaking of career resurrections … Keegan Bradley is in the midst of one, too.

Once one of the most promising young players on Tour, Bradley is now 31 and trying to find himself without his trusty belly putter.

Last season he finally showed progress, recording five top-10s and making a run for the Tour Championship until a rocky stretch in the playoffs. After missing the cut in Napa, he played bogey-free on the weekend at the CIMB, going 65-67, to earn runner-up honors and $756,000.

“I played well enough to win,” Bradley said, “but Pat Perez is playing exceptionally. So happy for him.”

3. There was little rest for the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, who headed to the CIMB just three weeks after the Tour Championship.

Despite being admittedly “low on gas” at the end of a long, breakout year, Thomas turned in a tie for 17th.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Thomas keeps this event on his schedule moving forward. Clearly, after back-to-back wins, TPC Kuala Lumpur suits his game. But he also added the event during his sophomore season on Tour, when he was trying to get a head start in the FedExCup race. He just so happened to win in his tournament debut, and again the next year, which necessitated his appearance this year.

The situation is not unlike Jordan Spieth’s relationship with the John Deere Classic. He won the event at a young age, and rather than turn his back on the tournament that launched his star, he paid it forward. It's a move that should be applauded ... and yet it was only a matter of time before he began to skip the event, with the Deere played a week before The Open. It made for a long, unnecessarily hectic stretch.  

Thomas is one of the game’s few bona fide stars who tees it up in the fall. (He is also in this week's CJ Cup field.) Now that he’s in a new stratosphere, he could be excused for taking more downtime next year. 

4. While the rest of the sports world was watching the Red Zone Channel, Tiger Woods was working on his game.

For the first time, Woods posted a video of himself hitting a driver (in his Sunday red, no less!). Until as recently as the Presidents Cup, he said he hadn’t been cleared to hit anything more than 60-yard wedge shots.

Apparently, things have escalated quickly. 

5. When you’re hot, you’re hot …

Tyrrell Hatton kept rolling after last week’s win at the Dunhill Links, firing a back-nine 30 Sunday to steal the Italian Open.

His 65-65 weekend was enough to eke him past Ross Fisher – again! – and move all the way up to No. 5 in the season-long Race to Dubai standings. 

Over the past two weeks, Hatton has made 54 birdies and only seven bogeys, posted a scoring average of 65.9 and, most importantly, earned two titles and about $2 million.

6. Pour some out for Fisher.

Faced with another large final-round deficit, he is a combined 19 under par over his past two Sundays. Each time he finished second to Hatton. 

7. Matt Parziale will need to take some more time off from the firehouse after his dominant victory last week at the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Parziale, a 30-year-old firefighter from Brockton, Mass., used 10 birdies in the scheduled 36-hole championship match to defeat Josh Nichols and earn the premier title for players 25 and older.

With the victory, Parziale will be exempt into next year’s U.S. Open (thanks to a new USGA rule announced two weeks ago) and likely receive an invitation to the Masters.

Parziale, a reinstated amateur who toiled on the mini-tours a few years ago, made eight birdies in the first 18 holes. Including the usual match-play concessions, his morning 7-under 63 was the best in the final since the USGA switched to a 36-hole format in 2001.

His 8-and-6 margin of victory was the third-largest in championship history.

8. At least one Ko is getting into the LPGA winner’s circle.

This time it was Jin Young Ko who won the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship to earn her first LPGA Title.

Ko, a nine-time winner on the KLPGA, closed with 68 to hold off S.H. Park.

Golf’s most famous Ko, Lydia, is still looking for her first win since July 2016.

9. Searching for her third LPGA title of the year, Park was denied a chance to move to world No. 1.

“There are still many events left this season,” she said, “and I think that’s the type of goal you continue to work hard to reach. I’ll just give it my best shot.” 

From the Gonna-Have-to-See-It-to-Believe-It Files:

That would mean that Trump, who is 71, nearly shot his age.

That would mean that, from 6,800 yards, or roughly the same yardage as the seniors played their recent PGA Championship, he beat more than half of the field, which shot 74 or higher.

That would mean that, despite a 250-yard average off the tee, he made “only one or two” bogeys, even with this choppy chipping action.


"I can say without hesitation," Graham bragged to, "Donald Trump did not come close to making a double bogey all day," as if that was some sort of accomplishment for a guy who just shot 1 over.

Clearly this has nothing to do with Senator Graham trying to curry favor with the president by talking up his golf game ... 

This week's award winners ... 

Best Use of Social Media: European Tour. Sergio Garcia and Austin Connelly, reunited after 18 years.  

Missed Opportunity: College Gameday. ESPN’s iconic college football pregame show easily could have had both Jordan Spieth and Oklahoma star Brad Dalke on the set as the celebrity guest pickers – they represented their schools in the coin toss at the Red River Rivalry.  

More Than One Way to a T-69: Grayson Murray. The second-year player had a wild tournament in Malaysia, going 82-74-64-73. Alas, his throwing aim wasn't much better ... 

If the @yankees, @astrosbaseball, @cubs or @dodgers need another arm in the bullpen...

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Well, That’s a Tough Break: Ryan Fox. The New Zealander missed the cut at the Italian Open, which wasn’t a surprise after his unfortunate start to the week. Fox was docked a two-shot penalty in the opening round because it wasn’t “virtually certain” that a fan picked up his ball.  

Let’s Try That Again: Leona Maguire. Fresh off her ninth career college title, the Duke senior and world No. 1 is entered into this week’s second stage of LPGA Q-School. (The top 80 and ties advance.) She bailed before final stage last year to stay in school. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Kevin Na. Heading into the week with a 68.08 scoring average at TPC Kuala Lumpur, he followed an opening 66 with rounds of 73-75 to balloon to a tie for 44th. Sigh. 

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “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.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.