Monday Scramble: Fireworks at the finish

By Will GrayAugust 21, 2017, 3:45 pm

Iowa shines in the Solheim spotlight, the Americans easily keep the cup, the season's final event on the PGA Tour provides plenty of drama and the U.S. Amateur goes down to the wire with an all-time finish. All that and more in this edition of Monday Scramble:


If birdies and hole-outs by the truckload are your thing, this was a week to remember.

From the antics of "the Brittanys" at the Solheim Cup to the card-saving theatrics of the Wyndham Championship and Doc Redman's memorable rally to capture the U.S. Amateur, this was an instance where tournaments and status were not lost. They were actively won, gains taken by players who boldly attacked and were rewarded accordingly.

It's not going to be the case everytime. Just last week at Quail Hollow we saw a course where par was a good score, and often times trophies are decided by untimely three-putts rather than makes from across the green.

Part of the allure of golf is that the delineation between dreamer and achiever can often seem faint. Amateurs can sit at home watching pros struggle with certain situations and nudge their buddy with a hint of "been there, done that."

But Sunday, across the country, some of the best men and women in professional and amateur golf reminded all of us just how good they can be when the stakes are at their highest. And they did so by pulling off shots the rest of us know little about.


1. There was no concession drama, no epic Sunday comeback. But the Solheim Cup was still the best spectacle in golf this week, and by a pretty wide margin.

Lofty expectations were assigned well before the two teams set foot on Des Moines Country Club, and the course - and area - lived up to the hype. From first-tee antics to dancing captains, fans in costumes to players walking in putts, the scene was electric.

Iowa doesn't have a pro sports team, and the Hawkeye football team isn't expected to turn heads this fall. But Des Moines had this one circled for a while, and they delivered in a big way. It's another storied chapter in the history of an event whose scope on the global golf landscape continues to grow.

2. Juli Inkster had a Hall of Fame playing career, but she somehow seems even more comfortable patrolling the fairways as a captain.

Two years after rescuing her team from a third straight loss in Germany, Inkster pressed all the right buttons. She ably deflected any pressure her team may have faced as favorites defending the trophy on home turf. She was fierce when she needed to be fierce, and loose when the moment called for it.

Management of the pod system went off without a hitch, as did her handling of rookies Angel Yin and Austin Ernst and the scrutinized inclusion of Paula Creamer.

After a dominating performance and a second straight win, Inkster should be afforded the captaincy for as long as she wants it.

3. The final margin was five points, but this year's Solheim should be remembered for two matches.

The Saturday fourball between Brittany Lang-Brittany Lincicome and Carlota Ciganda-Mel Reid was the stuff they write movies about. Six straight birdies from Lincicome, a hole-out eagle from Lang, and a dogged Euro pair who still pushed the match to the last hole.

The two teams combined to shoot 22 under, which seemed impressive until Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist met in Sunday's singles. Nordqvist was the MVP for Annika Sorenstam's shorthanded squad, and she played like it early on until Thompson caught fire. In a seven-hole span, she made four birdies and two eagles to flip the match on its head.

It ended in a draw, a fitting conclusion to the best match of the day that recalled memories of the duel between Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson last year at Hazeltine.



4. Henrik Stenson went to the Wyndham Championship on a whim, and he left with his first win in the U.S. in nearly four years.

Stenson added the Greensboro stop to make sure he'd play at least 15 events in order to keep his PGA Tour status and avoid a pitfall that has cost Martin Kaymer some time and will put Danny Willett into a penalty box next season. What the Swede found was an old-school layout where he could leave driver at home and still thrive.

The first win after a major can sometimes prove to be an interesting hurdle. Stenson has played plenty of good golf since lifting the claret jug at Royal Troon, but he he was still without a victory until Sunday. With four tied for the lead down the stretch, Stenson turned on the heat with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, including a 27-footer on the penultimate hole to (nearly) put things on ice.

Miles from Sedgefield, Phil Mickelson probably cracked a knowing grin.

5. The only man that appeared able to go toe-to-toe with Stenson was Ollie Schniederjans, yet another member of the storied Class of 2011 who undoubtedly will win soon on the PGA Tour.

Schniederjans sticks out as the only guy in most tournament fields without a hat, but his game got plenty of attention in the final round - especially when he hit a torpedo of a driving iron off the 18th tee that seemingly never left the ground but still trundled 341 yards downhill.

The former Georgia Tech standout now has five top-10 finishes this season and enters the playoffs with a great chance to reach the Tour Championship. Don't be surprised if he picks up a trophy on his way to East Lake.

6. The annual bubble watch at Wyndham certainly didn't lack any drama this year.

While four players cracked the top 125 in the season's final event, it was the manner in which they made their climbs that was noteworthy. Martin Flores essentially needed an ace on the 70th hole, and he got it. Rory Sabbatini came to the same green a few minutes later and holed a putt from Winston-Salem.

Even J.J. Henry had a hand in the theatrics, stuffing his final approach to 6 feet for a birdie that edged him past Zac Blair for coveted spot No. 125 by a single point.

More often than not, we'll see players crumble under the pressure of a 72-hole crucible where they know that every poor shot or a missed cut could cost them a job next year. Credit to this year's party crashers for thriving amid difficult circumstances.



7. Rory McIlroy will be in the field this week at Glen Oaks, which is a somewhat surprising turn of events given his comments at Quail Hollow.

McIlroy has clearly been frustrated by his inability to shake a rib injury that has already sidelined him twice this year. After closing out the season's final major he didn't rule out the possibility that he might shelve it for the whole year. Instead, he'll return to begin defense of his FedExCup title, with friend Harry Diamond still on the bag, after consulting with doctors in Northern Ireland.

This won't be a year to write home about for McIlroy, and a few good rounds in New York or Boston likely won't change that as his stated focus last week was on Augusta in April - not Atlanta in September. At this point, any efforts that aren't pointed toward hitting the ground running in 2018 might not be the best use of his time.

8. Even with McIlroy's inclusion, the 125-man field for The Northern Trust (formerly The Barclays, and not to be confused with the Northern Trust Open, which is now the Genesis Open ... got all that?) has been trimmed to 120.

Adam Scott was an an expected absence with the birth of his second child, while Sergio Garcia skipping a postseason event is nothing new. Brandt Snedeker ended his season last week, while No. 115 Dominic Bozzelli's is effectively over with his withdrawal. No. 85 Scott Piercy, who hasn't played since June, will also be absent at Glen Oaks.



9. There may not have been a seven-figure check on the line, but the theatrics Redman showed in mounting a last-gasp comeback to win the U.S. Amateur at Riviera were nonetheless riveting.

Down two with two holes to play, the rising sophomore calmly rolled in a 60-foot eagle putt on No. 17, stuffed his approach to the famed 18th, rolled in that putt to force overtime and then nearly drove the green on the tricky par-4 10th. How many Tour pros would kill for that series of shots each February?

Poor Doug Ghim seemed shell-shocked, and rightfully so. There was little he could have done to prevent the Redman onslaught, as a man who needed to survive a 13-for-8 playoff on the 10th hole Wednesday just to make the match-play portion of the tournament etched his name on the Havermeyer Trophy four days later.

10. A thrilling comeback means Redman will basically be able to plan a PGA Tour schedule around his classes at Clemson next year. Should he remain an amateur, he can expect to receive spots in each of the first three majors of 2018, plus invites to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial Tournament and Quicken Loans National. He'll also have a leg up on snagging a "Champions' Choice" sponsor invite to Colonial.

Not bad for a guy who still won't be able to legally drink next spring in the Crow's Nest.

11. Let's pause for a moment to reflect on Ghim, who played a masterful match through 34 holes and then was undone by a single tee shot in overtime. This is the second time the Texas senior has carred a 1-up lead into the 36th hole of a USGA final, and both times he's come up short.

Ghim is a talented prospect, and he landed a spot (alongside Redman) on the Walker Cup despite the loss. At least he can take additional comfort in knowing that as runner-up he'll still receive invites to the Masters and U.S. Open next year.


Schniederjans nearly took down Stenson with one hand tied behind his back. Sort of.

While making his charge up the leaderboard at Sedgefield over the weekend, Schniederjans drew some funny looks over how he executed from short range. On close putts, he would take his right hand off the club entirely at impact, essentially implementing a one-handed follow-through.

It may look unconventional, but it certainly didn't hold him back down the stretch. It's also not the craziest thing we've seen a PGA Tour pro attempt with putter in hand.

Captain knows best: Creamer and Catriona Matthew both filled in admirably this week as injury replacements, each going 3-1 for their teams. Inkster especially took some flak for naming Creamer to replace Jessica Korda, but the choice was ultimately vindicated - just as it was two years ago in Germany.

Too much to overcome: The Euros were already facing an uphill battle before losing Suzann Pettersen to injury. Pettersen was at the center of the storm back in '15, and while she embraced her role as assitant, her on-course fire would've been helpful - especially as Sorenstam's squad fought to find its footing early in the week.

Family first: With two weeks left in the Web.com Tour season, Martin Piller sat at No. 26 on the money list with the top 25 getting PGA Tour cards. But rather than tee it up in Knoxville, he opted to go to Iowa to support wife Gerina at the Solheim Cup. He'll head into the season finale in Portland at No. 27, about $12,000 behind No. 25 Beau Hossler as he seeks a promotion.

Even major winners tremble: Geoff Ogilvy, 2006 U.S. Open winner who entered the Wyndham No. 125 on the points list and saved his card with a T-16 finish: "There's a level of tension and stress in your body that's on a different level when you're in that position."

See you in Columbus: Familiar names facing a trip to Web.com Tour Finals after missing out on the FedExCup top 125: Sam Saunders, Ryan Palmer, Ricky Barnes, Johnson Wagner, Ben Crane, Retief Goosen and Boo Weekley.

To the victor go the spoils: Notables who finished outside the top 125 but will remain exempt next year thanks to recent wins on Tour: Shane Lowry, Billy Hurley III, Graeme McDowell, Smylie Kaufman, Greg Chalmers and Matt Every.

Decent rotation: After finishing up at one of the best courses on Tour in Riviera, the U.S. Amateur will shift to Pebble Beach next year, followed by Pinehurst No. 2 in 2019 and Bandon Dunes in 2020. Not too shabby.

Too much secret ballot: Ryan Lavner's stance on the subject is worth your time, but the USGA's insistence on using a super-secret formula to pick the Walker Cup team is one of the biggest head-scratchers from an organization that has produced a few in recent memory. Until the policy changes, they'll come under fire for it every two years - and rightfully so.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''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 and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''