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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. 

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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.