Monday Scramble: Phil wraps up year Tiger hasn't yet begun

By Ryan LavnerOctober 17, 2016, 4:00 pm

Brendan Steele snaps a five-year drought, Phil Mickelson takes a break, Se Ri Pak says goodbye, Johnny questions Tiger's health and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Apologies for the reminder, but the golf world was supposed to be buzzing today, the aftershocks of Tiger Woods’ first competitive start in 14 months. Alas, we know how that turned out.

Woods’ last-minute withdrawal set the tone for what became a sleepy, sloppy season opener in Wine Country. Sure, Phil Mickelson still flirted with contention, but otherwise the Safeway featured three days of weather delays and re-introductions.

It may not have been the can’t-miss show we were expecting, but don’t tell that to Brendan Steele. A new PGA Tour season has begun, with or without Tiger. 

1. A year ago in Napa, Steele led after 54 holes. Then he made eight bogeys (including a back-nine 40) to shoot 76 and plummet into a tie for 17th

There was no collapse this time. Instead, Steele erased a four-shot lead with a closing 65, making birdie on his last three holes, the final one after a nifty wedge to 10 feet.

“This is a little bit of redemption from last year,” he said. “It’s nice to close it off this way.”

2. It was also Steele’s first victory post-anchoring ban, which was no small feat.

The last few years have been a struggle on the greens for Steele, who used to wield a belly putter. Deciding to switch in 2014, after the ban was first announced, he ranked outside the top 120 in strokes gained-putting each of the past two seasons. At the Safeway, he was sixth in putting, holing more than 133 feet worth of putts in the final round. 

Steele’s first victory in more than five years should give hope to those who were forced to abandon the long wand. After all, major winners Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson haven’t been the same since the ban went into effect on Jan. 1.  

3. It’s a different part of the game that has held back Mickelson in recent years.

Winless since July 2013 – remarkably, a month longer than Woods’ drought – Mickelson has gotten increasingly errant off the tee. No, he has never driven the ball on a rope, but he has dropped outside the top 130 in both strokes gained-off the tee and driving accuracy. 

At tree-lined Silverado, where driving accuracy was paramount because of preferred lies in the fairway, Lefty found the short grass only 25 times in 56 opportunities. That ranked 62nd out of the 70 players who made the cut.

With his putting back on track, his driving will be the primary focus of his offseason work. Phil isn't expected to tee it up again until late January, so he'll have plenty of time to figure it out. 

4. How hard is it to win on the PGA Tour for the first time? Watch a replay of Patton Kizzire’s final few holes.

He held a two-shot lead with seven holes to play, but his swing betrayed him down the stretch. He drove into a fairway bunker on 12, under a tree on 15 and 16, and then left a wedge shot woefully short on 17. On the final hole, he pulled his drive left, into the rough, and had to lay up. He flailed a 9-iron right of the green and couldn’t hole the chip. At least his putting looked solid. 

“I’m really disappointed,” he said, “but I played well. It’s a building block.” 

5. Paul Casey continued to remind the European Ryder Cup team what it was missing when he tied for third at the Safeway. 

Casey declined to take up European Tour membership because he wanted to spend more time with his family, which is based in Phoenix. To be a tour member, players must compete in five tournaments outside of the majors and WGCs.

Europe certainly could have used Casey at Hazeltine – the team suffered its worst loss since 1981, while the Englishman has now finished in the top four in his last four appearances on the PGA Tour.

“I wanted to be there,” he said, “but the best seat in the house has to be at home with the TV and glass of wine, doesn’t it?” 

6. Speaking of which ... after losing for just the second time since 1999, the European Ryder Cup team will have a new skipper as early as this December.

Paul McGinley, the victorious 2014 captain, told Reuters that a decision on Europe’s next captain should be made before Christmas. The committee includes the past three captains – Darren Clarke, McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal – European Tour CEO Keith Pelley and someone nominated by the players’ committee (likely Henrik Stenson). 

Thomas Bjorn is considered the frontrunner for the position.

7. Did you know: Alex Noren is the 18th-ranked player in the world. That's one spot ahead of Matt Kuchar.

Just four months ago, he was ranked outside the top 100 (No. 108). He just won his third event in his last eight starts, at the British Masters.

Four of his seven career titles have come in the past two seasons, but he is still looking to make a splash on a big stage. He has only one top-15 in 14 career major appearances.

8. Maybe Lee Westwood won’t just fade into oblivion, after all. 

After a yippy, confidence-shattering performance at the Ryder Cup, the 43-year-old rebounded to post a third-place finish in which he shot 68 or better all four rounds. 

9. Score one for Pelley. Last week the ambitious Euro Tour CEO unveiled one of his latest ideas – a one-hole, knockout contest under the lights featuring some of the tour’s biggest stars. 

By all accounts, it was a rousing success. Players competed in seven quick-fire matches on a 156-yard par 3 in front of a few thousand fans. Check out this video for more

“It was amazing to see the crowds and everyone enjoying it,” said winner Alexander Levy. “Golf needs something like this, and it is a great idea.”

Can you imagine how popular this would be if the Tour held a similar exhibition, say, before the Vegas tournament? 

10. Pak ended one of the most influential careers in LPGA history last week in her native South Korea. 

It mattered little that she shot 80 before withdrawing with a nagging shoulder issue. This was a celebration of her life and career, with a children’s choir, video montage and long line of well-wishers. Her two-major season in 1998 is widely regarded as one of the biggest catalysts for the sport’s growth in South Korea. Now, six of the top 10 players in the world are South Korean.

“I think if we had no so-called Se Ri Kids,” she said, “the Korean golf scene would be quite different today.” 

11. Ian Poulter had an encouraging return start, at least early.

Poulter, who hadn’t played since mid-May because of a foot injury, opened with 64 to share the first-round lead at the Asian Tour’s Macau Open. It only got worse from there. The Englishman shot rounds of 73-71-73 to tie for 28th against a weak field.

Still, Poulter reported no physical setbacks. He took off 14 weeks because of arthritis in his right foot, a condition he can only hope to manage with rest and rehab.  

There was plenty of pessimism surrounding Woods’ scheduled return. Part of that was because of his health. 

Miller got skewered for the following comment about Woods – as he does for most comments – but he was right in this case.

“He was getting out of that cart pretty gingerly (at the Ryder Cup). Nobody talked about that," Miller said. "When he got in and out of that cart, he was a little – he didn’t look like he was jumping out and saying, ‘Hi, guys.’ So I’m not sure how healthy he really is.”

Watching Woods at the Ryder Cup, this observer had the same reaction. He moved slowly and awkwardly, tentatively, like he might tweak something at any moment. He has looked that way ever since he went under the knife for the first time in March 2014.   

Keep this in mind: Woods and Henrik Stenson are the same age. They’re both 40.

Watching them move around the course, or swing a club, you'd guess that Woods was at least a decade older.

This week's award winners ...

If Not for That Start …: Justin Thomas. Only seven players posted a score worse than JT’s opening 75 in Napa, a round that included a pair of triple bogeys. He went 66-66-67 to claw back inside the top 10, and now he heads back to Malaysia for his first title defense. 

Oh, So THAT’S What It Looks Like: A 423-yard drive. Joe Miller, you beast

Road to Heaven: Arnold Palmer. As an Orlando resident, it was little surprise to hear that a portion of State Road 408 will be renamed the Arnold Palmer Expressway. This move deserves a thumbs up – not the usual extended finger that we see on the roads here. 

Can’t Help But Root For …: Steven Bowditch. He has struggled mightily over the past year or so, but his Twitter game remains on point. 

Rookie Hazing: Cody Gribble. The left-hander from Texas was the only Tour rookie who finished in the top 10 in Napa (T-8).

Sister Act: Nelly Korda. Following in big sis Jessica’s footsteps, the younger Korda, 18, earned her LPGA card via the Symetra Tour on Sunday. 

Not Sure This Item Will Catch On: LPGA Store pants, with the "See Why It's Different Out Here" slogan embroided on the back pocket.

Can't forget the #seewhyitsdifferent tag!

Keeps Getting Better: The high school class of 2011. With Emiliano Grillo earning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors, the heralded class now has earned the title three of the past four years (Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger). Don't be surprised if the run continues, with Ollie Schniederjans and Cheng-Tsung Pan on deck.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Matt Kuchar. One of the Tour’s most consistent players had 10 top-10s last season. Well, he’s off to an 0-for-1 start, after getting bounced early following rounds of 70-72. Sigh.  

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Golf Channel to Deliver Worldwide Coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show, "The Major of Golf Business," Tueday-Friday, Jan. 23-26

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 22, 2018, 2:45 pm

Morning Drive, Golf Central to Give Viewers Insider Access to the PGA Show with Nearly 20 Hours of Live Coverage; Golf Channel’s School of Golf Instruction Program to Originate From On-Site

Golf Channel’s Portfolio of Lifestyle Brands – GolfNow, Golf Channel Academy, Revolution Golf and World Long Drive On-Site at the PGA Show Contributing to the Network’s Comprehensive Coverage


ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2018) – Golf Channel announced plans for its comprehensive coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show – the largest golf convention and business gathering in the world – with nearly 20 hours of news and instruction coverage Tuesday, Jan. 23 – Friday, Jan. 26. Golf Channel’s coverage will span across the four days, beginning Tuesday with the “PGA Show Demo Day” from the Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge driving range in Winter Garden, Fla., and continuing Wednesday-Friday at the PGA Merchandise Show from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

With an insider look at the PGA Merchandise Show – a golf industry event that is not open to the public – Golf Channel’s coverage via Morning Drive and Golf Central will be delivered to a worldwide audience in more than 36 countries. Coverage will provide viewers live interviews with industry leaders, professional golfers from the world’s major tours, PGA of America members and a comprehensive overview of the latest products and trends for 2018 from some of the nearly 1,100 golf brands exhibiting on-site.

PGA Merchandise Show Week Programming Schedule: Jan. 23-26 (All Times Eastern)


Morning Drive

7-11 a.m. (Live)



Golf Central

5-6 p.m. (Live)



School of Golf

8-9 p.m.



Morning Drive

7-11:30 a.m. (Live)



Golf Central

5-6 p.m. (Live)



Morning Drive

8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)



Golf Central

7-8 p.m. (Live)



Morning Drive

8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)



Golf Central

7-8 p.m. (Live)




Golf Channel’s expansive coverage of the PGA Merchandise Show will utilize several on-air personalities from the network’s news division, beginning with Charlie Rymer and Lauren Thompson offering coverage of the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day on Tuesday. In addition to Rymer and Thompson, Wednesday-Friday coverage from the PGA Show Floor will include Matt Adams, Cara Banks, Lisa Cornwell, Matt Ginella, Damon Hack, Bailey Mosier and Gary Williams.


Golf Channel’s PGA Merchandise Show on-air coverage will be available to stream via Golf Channel Digital Tuesday-Friday. Comprehensive online editorial coverage also will be available throughout the week, with contributions from writers Jay Coffin and Will Gray. Golf Channel’s social media platforms will keep viewers engaged in the conversation about what’s generating buzz at the #PGASHOW throughout the week via the network’s social media channels – @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Twitter, @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Instagram and GolfChannel and GCMorningDrive on Facebook. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will host Golf Channel’s digital and social media coverage throughout the week.


Golf Channel’s coverage of “Demo Day” will begin Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 a.m. ET with Morning Drive airing live and on-site to highlight the latest in golf equipment from the expansive driving range at Orange County National. Rymer and Thompson will host Morning Drive on-site, featuring interviews and product demonstrations.


Coverage of the PGA Show will transition indoors to the Orange County Convention Center, Wednesday-Friday, Jan. 24-26 to give viewers an all-access tour of the PGA Show. Morning Drive and Golf Central will provide on-site reports throughout the week, with featured interviews and segments originating from the PGA Show Floor. Coverage from the Convention Center will originate from a large, multi-purpose space elevated above the PGA Show Floor, with three set configurations for interviews, along with a putting green and a golf simulator for product demonstrations. Golf Channel also will feature a “Fly Cam,” a unique camera technology made popular in televising football and other sports. Suspended above the PGA Show Floor, the Fly Cam will span more than 700 feet, giving viewers an aerial viewpoint of the vast floor and the exhibitors. New for 2018 will be a “Jib Cart,” a mobile cart with a camera jib affixed allowing high shots of the booths throughout the Show Floor.


School of Golf, Golf Channel’s signature instruction program that airs on Tuesday nights, will kick off its eighth season with a one-hour special at Demo Day on Tuesday, Jan. 23, airing in primetime from 8-9 p.m. ET. Originating from the Cleveland Golf/Srixon/XXIO booth on the Orange County National driving range and hosted by Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal, the show will include special guests and interactions with a live audience.


In addition to Golf Channel’s on-air and digital coverage, the network’s lifestyle brands – GolfNow, World Long Drive, Golf Channel Academy and Revolution Golf will showcase their services at the PGA Show with special clinics, product demonstrations and on-site activations.


GolfNow, the industry’s leader in golf-related technology and services, will be exhibiting Wednesday-Friday from Booth #2173. In addition to showcasing advanced technologies that have created the largest tee-time marketplace in golf, GolfNow also will be educating course owners and operators about innovations and services designed to help them run their businesses more efficiently and successfully. GolfNow Business experts will be on hand at GolfNow’s 2,400-square-foot booth, offering its course partners technology demonstrations, as well as consultation on any of the GolfNow Services: Plus, a top-line focused consultative performance system for golf courses, including marketing, sales and automated pricing; Answers, a call center for golf courses, answering customer calls day and night; and Ride, a no-cost purchasing program that saves course operators from 6-35 percent on items they buy day-to-day, such as food, office supplies and agricultural products.


Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, World Long Drive competitors will be at the PGA Show to compete in a World Long Drive Bracket Challenge. Hosted by Golf Channel’s social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin and airing live via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live, the competition will take place at Golf Channel’s simulator on the Show Floor featuring eight men and four women, including World No. 2 Ryan Reisbeck, No. 3 Maurice Allen, No. 5 Trent Scruggs and 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Women’s Champion Sandra Carlborg.


Wednesday-Friday, Golf Channel Academy coaches will provide on-site instruction clinics at Golf Channel’s simulator set on the Show Floor. Wednesday’s clinics will feature driving, full swing, wedge play and putting clinics. Thursday’s clinic will include the full swing and Friday’s clinic will feature the short game, all streamed live via Golf Channel Academy’s Facebook page.


Revolution Golf, the industry’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform delivering high-quality video-based instruction, travel content and integrated e-commerce will have a significant presence at the PGA Show. Golf Channel’s newest digital acquisition, Revolution Golf will be shooting digital segments at Demo Day and throughout the PGA Show Floor, including segments with its team of instructors.

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CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.