Monday Scramble: Tiger nears return; Bro-hamas!

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Charley Hoffman shakes off the Sunday blues, Tiger Woods hurtles toward a return, a few top players skip the Olympics, #SB2K16 changes Golf Snapchat forever and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

It seems Woods is further along in his recovery than originally thought. 

It was just over a month ago that your correspondent saw Woods at his course opening in Houston. He moved gingerly and said repeatedly that he had no idea when he would return to competition. At that point, he appeared likely to sit out the rest of the year, that he would pace himself.

Now?

Now, he’s blasting drivers and stinging 2-irons and appearing at a junior clinic to show off all of his hard work. Now, it’d be a surprise if he didn’t tee it up in the next month, which is what Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reported Friday – that "all indications" are Woods will return at next week’s Quail Hollow Championship and The Players the following week. Even confidante Notah Begay III said that Woods was on the “back half” of his rehabilitation and that he'd come back sooner rather than later.   

Only Woods knows his body, of course, but this would be a miraculous recovery from where he was just about six weeks ago. He can’t afford another setback, not after three back surgeries, and this return would seem premature. Again. 


1. Of the 201 qualifiers, Hoffman had a better final-round scoring average than exactly one player on the PGA Tour entering last week's Valero Texas Open.

On eight previous Sundays, he had averaged 74.75 and was a combined 26 over par, with only one under-par round (a meaningless 70 in Phoenix that gave him a tie for 51st). Other than that, he had three rounds of 75 – including last week, when he had a chance to win at the Heritage – as well as an 80 during the wind-swept finale at Torrey Pines. 

“It’s been hard,” Hoffman said of his final-round struggles. “Being in contention every Sunday and not closing the door is not me.”

In fact, in two of his three prior victories, he had closed with a 66 in Mexico and, most memorably, fired a sizzling 62 in Boston. And so Sunday in San Antonio, he steadied himself after a few stumbles – and, yes, it wasn't always pretty, for he missed a good look on 15, sailed his tee shot long and left on 16, chunked a wedge on 17 and hit a shaky sand shot on 18 – but in the end, he birdied three of the last eight holes, including a 9-footer on the last, to shoot 69 and edge Patrick Reed by one.

Now, he's ranked 196th in final-round scoring.

2. By the way, on the celebration scale of Dufner to Tiger, who knew The Hoff would rank closer to the GOAT of fist-pumpers? This was terrific:


3. Just go ahead and pencil Hoffman into the 2017 Texas Open in your one-and-done fantasy league. He now has seven consecutive top-13 finishes at TPC San Antonio, and since 2010 he's 43 under par there – 29 shots better than any other player during that span. 

4. No one has been more consistent this season than Reed – his eight top-10s are tops on Tour – but he’ll remember the Texas Open as the tournament that got away.

No, he never held the lead coming down the stretch, but he made par from the middle of the par-5 14th fairway and then missed a pair of 8-foot birdie putts on 16 and 17. Reed put a lot of pressure on a player who had plenty of Sunday scar tissue, but ultimately he couldn’t nail down his first title of the season.

“I’m still first loser,” he said afterward. “I’m tired of finishing in second and top-five and top-10. I need to close out tournaments and get Ws.” 



5. Three marquee names have dropped out of the Olympics in the past week, causing even more debate about whether (1) golf should even be in the Summer Games, and (2) why world-class athletes are passing on the opportunity to represent their country at the biggest spectacle in sports.

Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen all cited the hectic summer schedule as one of the biggest reasons why they won’t make the trip to Rio – and that’s the shame in all of this, because golf’s biggest decision-makers had seven years (!) to get it right and clearly did not. During the heart of the season, there are four huge tournaments in a seven-week stretch, followed by the Olympics, followed by the FedEx Cup playoffs. It’s madness.

Though the belief here is that the top players are being shortsighted and that all (or at least most) will buy in once the pageantry of the Olympics begins, it’s hard to fault Scott and Oosthuizen for choosing a major over a medal.

They shouldn’t have had to choose in the first place.

6. Last week, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Johnny Miller criticized the threesome who have opted to skip the Olympics, with the Golden Bear saying that it was a “shame for the game of golf.” 

Respected opinions, all of them, but they also don’t have to play this summer. The stars do. 



7. What happened in Baker's Bay definitely didn’t stay there, not with Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas Snapchatting all of their shenanigans from the greatest spring break trip ever* 

(*the greatest one that was documented on Snapchat by professional golfers) 

Sorry, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that we enjoyed watching these clips of golf's frat brothers more than any tournament action this past week, at least until the final half hour Sunday. It was a hoot to see all of these guys acting their age for a change, having fun, enjoying a life with which we are completely unfamiliar. They played golf shirtless and shoeless. They imitated golf announcers. They even found a dog!

That Rory McIlroy chimed in with this tweet made #SB2K16 even more legendary. (McIlroy, by the way, seemed to be enjoying himself, as well.) Thanks for the entertainment, lads.


8. Couldn’t help but chuckle when an email from the PGA Tour popped into the inbox last week, with a headline that read: DECHAMBEAU’S HOT START COULD LEAD TO WEB.COM TOUR FINALS APPEARANCE. 

Here’s guessing that the recently minted pro isn’t thinking about that.

Even with a missed cut last week at the Valero Texas Open – essentially a free start, thanks to his top-10 the previous week in Hilton Head – DeChambeau is already in great shape to earn special temporary status and then make a run at earning his card via the top 125. Running on fumes after a whirlwind few weeks, the 22-year-old was uncharacteristically wayward with his ball-striking, leading to rounds of 74-73 in calm conditions. He’ll take this week off, then head to Charlotte for the Quail Hollow, his second of seven sponsor exemptions this season.  

9. After a red-hot start to the new year, Phil Mickelson has cooled of late, with a second consecutive missed cut coming last week at TPC San Antonio.

The biggest reason? His short game. 

Over his last two starts, Lefty is taking one and a half more putts per round; getting up-and-down 15 percent less; and converting about 20 percent fewer of his sand-save opportunities. 

As a result, his Tour-leading scoring average of 69.3 over his first eight starts has ballooned to 74.8 over his last two appearances.  

10. Ricky Barnes will have to wait a bit longer for his first PGA Tour title. He failed to convert a 54-hole lead in San Antonio, stumbling to a 74 on the final day and finishing in a tie for fourth.

Only 18 active players have more career starts without a victory than Barnes, who is now 0-for-222. 



11. The Lydia-Inbee rivalry that was supposed to dominate the 2016 LPGA season has yet to materialize. 

Ko has done her part, winning twice, but now Park is slated to miss even more time because of a thumb injury. Park, who already missed a month earlier this year because of a back injury, expects to return sometime in late May. 

It’s been a frustrating year – she has only a pair of top-10s in seven starts. 

12. That’s victory No. 2 on the Web.com Tour for Wesley Bryan, one half of the famous trick-shot team, and this one came with a cool twist.

It started like this: 

Coleman, who handles the social media for Callaway Golf, made good on his promise, documented the experience on Bryan’s bag (here and here, with a full recap here), and, well, had a front-row seat to the 26-year-old’s four-shot romp in Mexico. (Last month, I wrote about Wesley Bryan here.) 

A follow-up to last week's item ... 

New Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner posted this tweet, mere days after saying "any of my assistant coaches, if they’re golfers, not working for me":

Wow, that's quite an about-face!

Maybe his public relations staff wanted to have a word. Maybe he realized the error of his ways. Or maybe he's just a huge hypocrite. Stay tuned next week.

This week's award winners ... 


Can’t Imagine This Happens Very Often: The Pillers. Martin (PGA Tour) and wife Gerina (LPGA) each had a good chance to win on their respective tour Sunday. Martin staked himself to a two-shot lead before a double bogey on the 13th hole. Gerina moved within a shot of the lead in brutal conditions at Lake Merced before a double on 11. Martin tied for fourth, while Gerina shared third. Good stuff. 

Don’t Publicize Your Mischief, Vol. 1893: Kevin Kisner. After a Vice Sports video made the rounds showing Kisner and a bunch of buddies betting, drinking beer and racing golf carts at Palmetto, he said on Twitter that he’s been suspended from the Aiken, S.C., club, along with the other members who appeared in the video. “Pretty comical,” he tweeted. 

True to his Word: Andrew "Beef" Johnston. Indeed, he got hammered after his first European Tour title.


Big Coup: European Tour. McIlroy announced Monday that he will skip the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in favor of the French Open. Even more fallout from the Olympics and the summer scheduling nightmare. Read more here

Not Coming Wiesy: Michelle Wie. She pulled out of the Swinging Skirts because of neck spasms after going 11 over through 15 holes Sunday. It was her fourth missed cut or withdrawal this year.

This Shot was Hit by a Professional Golfer: Hoffman. Though he didn't reach the fairway with his tee shot, at least give him credit for making par. And, you know, winning.


That’s How You Close: Illinois. Trailing by eight heading into the final round of the Big Ten Championship, the Ilini shot a school-record, 24-under 264, didn't count a 4-under 68, recorded the best score of the day by 19 and rolled to another conference title – by 13!

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Jimmy Walker. Defending champion, home game, great track record, solid scoring average this season … and then rounds of 75-77. Sigh.