Monday Scramble: Good 'bye' for others

By Will GraySeptember 11, 2017, 4:00 pm

The PGA Tour takes the week off, the Presidents Cup rosters are finalized, the Walker Cup takes center stage and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:

Halftime is officially over.

The lightest week on the golf calendar has come and gone, as both the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour Finals sat idle last week. But both circuits will soon return to full force to begin a three-week sprint through the end of the season.

For the game's biggest names, the Tour Championship sits just one week away with the Presidents Cup after that. The BMW Championship is a last chance for some to qualify for East Lake, while others like Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas will look to rekindle their postseason momentum to retain their coveted positions within the top five in the points race.

Meanwhile, the race for status renews in Boise as a mix of Web.com and PGA Tour pros vie for the handful of cards still up for grabs for next season, with stops still to come in Ohio and Florida.

The calendar reads September, and football is in full force. But there's still plenty to play for on the course.


1. What was old is new again.

Thanks in large part to a T-6 finish at TPC Boston, Phil Mickelson snagged one of the last two spots on the U.S. Presidents Cup team thanks to a pick from captain Steve Stricker.

Mickelson's inclusion on the roster at Liberty National was never really in doubt, especially when other bubble contenders like Brian Harman and Gary Woodland failed to mount a late charge. But it serves as another impressive mark of consistency for Mickelson, who hasn't won in more than four years but still hasn't missed a team competition since 1993.

Consider this for perspective: Mickelson has played in either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup every year of 22-year-old Jon Rahm's lifetime.

2. Expect a strong showing later this month from Charley Hoffman, the second recipient of a pick from Stricker who will make his team debut at age 40.

Hoffman has had a remarkably consistent season, but it didn't include a victory and he was edged out by the thinnest of margins by Kevin Chappell for the final spot. Leaving him off the team when it essentially came down to a single shot over a two-year window would have been borderline cruel.

Hoffman has had a knack for stepping up in big events this year, and now he'll have a chance to do so once again - this time donning the red, white and blue.

3. International captain Nick Price's selection of Emiliano Grillo seemed a likely choice, while he has opted to offer Anirban Lahiri a shot at redemption.

Lahiri was nearly inconsolable after missing a short putt on the last hole of his singles match against Chris Kirk at the 2015 Presidents Cup that proved pivotal in the narrow American win. It capped an 0-3 week for the Indian, and he hasn't cracked the top 15 since his runner-up at the Memorial in June.

But largely devoid of other viable options near the bubble, Price went with a veteran who has some playing experience in the U.S. - and who will be eager to make up for previous shortcomings.



4. After authoring another impressive performance, Lexi Thompson took a big stride toward the No. 1 ranking.

Thompson went wire-to-wire at the inaugural Indy Women in Tech Championship, finishing four shots clear of Lydia Ko after making 23 birdies across the 54-hole event. It's her second win of the season, ninth of her career and lifts the 22-year-old back to a career-best No. 2 in the world.

Thompson's 2017 campaign will likely be remembered for the controversy that surrounded her playoff loss at the ANA Inspiration in April. But to her credit, she was able to move on from a bitter defeat and has now continued to assert her position as the best American in the women's game.

5. Ko's runner-up finish was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal season.

The former world No. 1 has dropped all the way down to eighth in the world rankings, and this was just her second top-5 finish of 2017. Ko made headlines in the offseason when she changed basically every aspect of her game, from clubs to caddie to instructor.

It's been an uphill battle ever since, but her performance in the Hoosier State shows that all is not yet lost for a player who still can't legally buy a beer in the U.S. for another six months.



6. It might be time to start paying attention to what Matthew Fitzpatrick has been able to achieve early in his European Tour career.

The Englishman won the U.S. Amateur back in 2013, and he has played plenty of professional golf in the U.S. But he seems to play his best on the other side of the Atlantic, including Sunday when he topped Scott Hend in a playoff to win the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

It's Fitzpatrick's fourth career win in Europe at the ripe old age of 23, a sure sign that he is able to capitalize on more than his fair share of chances once he gets within arm's length of the lead. Fitzpatrick showed his age at last year's Ryder Cup, and he has struggled for much of this season.

But with yet another trophy on his mantle, he has again reminded folks that he packs plenty of potential - and should continue to do so for years to come.



7. The Walker Cup is back on American soil.

Collin Morikawa and Norman Xiong's 8-and-7 victory in the tournament's opening match was an indicator of what was to come, as the U.S. team took an 8-4 lead after the first day and won back the trophy in a 19-7 rout.

The Americans were heavy favorites on paper, and they played like it from start to finish. Three players finished the week a perfect 4-0: Morikawa, U.S. Amateur runner-up Doug Ghim and Maverick McNealy, who found a fitting way to cap a standout amateur career before embarking on his pro debut next month.

8. While the Americans left with the trophy, the big winner at the Walker Cup was Los Angeles Country Club.

The North Course shined under a rare spotlight, showcased in pristine conditions and offering players a stern but interesting test. It left many in the golf world salivating for the 2023 U.S. Open, when the course will host a major for the first time and should make a much more well-received debut than either Chambers Bay or Erin Hills.

9. The Walker Cup continues to boast one of the most underrated venue rotations of any event in golf, pro or amateur.

Two years from now the scene will shift to Royal Liverpool, while 2021 will mark a return to the U.S. at storied Seminole Golf Club. Then in 2025, it heads to Cypress Point.

Tough to beat that lineup.

 

 


I mean ... we've all thought about doing it. Kudos to this guy for having the dedication to follow through, and hopefully he can re-stock his bag at a discount rack sometime soon.

This week's award winners ... 


Mult-Sport Fan: Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champ hasn't been seen on the course in more than seven months, but he made another public appearance this weekend to take in some tennis at the U.S. Open alongside his kids in New York. And, of course, he did so while sporting some gear for "his" Raiders.

Troll Game on Point: Patrick Reed, who broke out some Notre Dame gear just in time for the Fighting Irish to play a football game against Georgia, where Reed's college career was both brief and controversial. Reed did use the occasion to share that he and his wife, Justine, are expecting a second child:

Target Golf: The 15th hole at LACC, which played to a devilish 78 yards during the first day of the Walker Cup. With par-3s trending these days to 250 yards and beyond, it was refreshing to see that a hole could be well under 100 yards and still pose a challenge.

Impressive Debut: The Japan Airlines Championship, which marked the first trip to Japan by the PGA Tour Champions and seemed to be well-received by all players involved, including champion Colin Montgomerie. Look for a similar response when the PGA Tour branches out to South Korea with a new event next month.

Making the Most of It: Ken Duke, one of several pros who battled the elements of Hurricane Irma in Florida. But I don't think any of Duke's peers would be able to match the catch his daughter reeled in between rain bands:

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: None! One of the few benefits of a bye week. Rest assured, plenty of misguided selections on tap this week at Conway Farms.

Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”