Monday Scramble: History to history in the making


Jim Furyk shoots golf's (new) magic number, Russell Knox takes another title, Wesley Bryan earns a brief promotion, Nike closes up shop and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

In an era where distance is king, the owner of the best score in PGA Tour history is not a guy who can pound the ball into another zip code.

Just the opposite, in fact.

Jim Furyk is a 46-year-old with a surgically repaired wrist, a loopy backswing, a dink-and-dunk approach ... and he is the only player to shoot in the 50s twice on Tour.

Nothing in Furyk’s career has been aesthetically pleasing – not his swing, not his U.S. Open victory, certainly not his Ryder Cup record – but even after all of these years he possesses an uncanny ability to grind, to keep plugging along, to get the ball in the hole.

His success underscores the power of sound course management.

1. With a clutch par save on the 72nd hole, Knox became the fifth multiple winner this season, joining Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.

The win doesn’t automatically qualify the Scotsman for the Ryder Cup – he received no points for his WGC-HSBC title last fall, because he wasn’t a European Tour member – but he should be a lock for a captain’s pick. If the fall had counted toward his total, he'd be No. 4 on the World Points list.

Even Knox conceded: "It's put Darren Clarke in a very difficult position not to pick me."

With veteran Lee Westwood also likely to receive a wildcard selection, Clarke will have to decide between the likes of Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell to fill out his roster. His three picks are due Aug. 29.  

2. Knox had one of the year's best celebrations, flinging his cap after the winning putt dropped. "I felt like the Incredible Hulk when it went in," he said afterward. "I could have ripped my shirt off."

Look at the zip on this fastball. Single-A teams have to be salivating at the thought of adding the 5-foot-10 right-hander to their rotation.

3. Furyk had barely signed off on his record round when the conversation shifted to where his round ranked all time. But it might not even be the best sub-60 score.

On Sunday, he hit every green and missed just one fairway (even though it didn’t hurt him – he stuck his approach from the right rough inside 3 feet). He made five putts longer than 14 feet, including the 23-footer on 16 that put him in line for the 58. And he gained more than 10.66 strokes on the field.

That last part is important, because it shows how unlikely the crazy-low round was. 

From a strokes-gained perspective, Al Geiberger’s 59 remains the best: He beat the field average by 13.6 strokes that day.

Furyk’s own 59, at the 2013 BMW, was second-best (12.09), while David Duval’s closing 59 in 1999 ranked third (10.68). 

Of the six players who have shot golf’s (old) magic number, only Geiberger, Duval and Chip Beck posted that score on a par-72 course; Furyk’s 58 was on the par-70 TPC River Highlands. 

Is it easier to break 60 on a par 72 than a par 70, because there are two more par 5s on which to score? You'd think so, but history says it’s equally as difficult.  

4. How will Furyk’s historic round affect his Ryder Cup chances?

Even before the 58 he clearly had caught the attention of Davis Love III, who reasoned at his PGA news conference that Furyk would be “top five or six” in points had he not sat out much of the season because of a wrist injury. Overall, his name was mentioned seven times in the presser.

Love seemed to be looking for any reason to pick Furyk, who has veteran savvy, sure, but also the most losses (20) of any player in Ryder Cup history.

Then this happened.

5. And so Love’s decision just got a lot more difficult. 

He said that the four American Olympians will receive credit on his unofficial points list, but frankly, results on the big tour should matter more.

Kuchar deserves a pick, because of his form this season (nine top-10s). Reed deserves a pick, because of his phenomenal match-play record. And Daniel Berger should at least receive strong consideration, even though he blew the Travelers on Sunday. He has a win this summer and the kind of brash, fearless attitude the Americans desperately need. 

That leaves Love to decide between Rickie Fowler (well-liked, but disappointing year), Bubba Watson (big hitter, but nothing of note since Riviera) and, surely, a Billy Horschel-type PWGHL (player who gets hot later). 

Depending on how the fall shakes out, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the Americans will leave at least one player home who is ranked inside the OWGR top 10.

6. Here's a look at where Rickie, Bubba and Co. will be teeing off over the first two rounds in Rio.

7. Berger, meanwhile, couldn’t have picked a worse time for his closing 74 at the Travelers. 

Staked to a three-shot lead, the 23-year-old was on the verge of his second victory in as many months. Instead, he didn't make a birdie until the 14th hole and wasn't a factor down the stretch.

There are only three events for Berger to jump inside the top 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, or else he'll have to rely on a pick. This was a golden opportunity to accrue some points. 

8. Just going to leave this here, because it’s the most astounding stat of a wild day at TPC River Highlands (click here for my wrap of Furyk's round): 

9. If he wanted to (and here's thinking he does not), Mike “Fluff” Cowan could write a heckuva book about his career. The legendary caddie has now had a front-row seat to some of the most incredible moments in the game’s long history: Tiger Woods’ 12-shot romp at the 1997 Masters; the miracle comeback at the ’99 Ryder Cup; and now Furyk’s 59 and 58. 

10. It’s early August, and already there is no shortage of contenders for Round of the Year. Here is how we’d rank the top 5 rounds of 2016:

  1. Henrik Stenson, 63, The Open
  2. Jim Furyk, 58, Travelers
  3. Ken Duke, 65, The Players
  4. Brandt Snedeker, 69, Farmers
  5. Phil Mickelson, 65, The Open

11. It’ll turn out to be a two-week bump to the big leagues, but Bryan became the 11th player to win three times in a Tour season and earn an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour. 

Wesley’s latest victory came in a playoff at the Digital Ally Open. It’s been a meteoric rise for the one-time trick-shot artist, who will have a full Tour card waiting for him next season.

Carlos Ortiz last earned the promotion in 2014. It’s unfortunate timing for Bryan, with only two regular-season events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule. 

12. In a move that stunned the golf industry, Nike announced last week that it would stop producing equipment and instead focus on apparel and footwear. Even staffers like Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Patrick Rodgers seemed shocked by the news. Tiger Woods suggested in a tweet that he’d only had a few days’ notice.

The big question now, of course, is what happens to those donning the Swoosh.

Koepka and Finau, both of whom were courted by PXG before signing with Nike, said they will play out the season with their current equipment. Why change what’s working? 

Woods could mix and match his bag. McIlroy may return to Titleist. Whatever happens, it figures to be the wildest free-agency period in golf history.

Speaking of which ...

Hey, we appreciate a good Twitter trolling as much as anyone, but there was something about these tweets that didn’t sit well here. 

Sure, there’s a time and a place to jump in, to crack wise about the upcoming signing frenzy, but mere hours after Nike announced that it was getting out of the equipment space – and thus laying off HUNDREDS of employees – did not seem like that time. 

This week's award winners ... 

Unintentional Humblebrag: Furyk, when asked about how low he could go: “If I had never shot 59 before, I would’ve been thinking 59. But I was thinking about breaking that barrier.” 

Overshadowed: Justin Thomas. He shot 62 and didn't have the best round of the day. By four shots. "Not often do you shoot 62 and get your butt handed to you," he said afterward.

Better Late Than Never: Anthony Wall. After more than a 16-year wait, he finally won again on the European Tour, after beating Alex Noren in the championship of the Paul Lawrie Match Play.

No Regrets: Dustin Johnson. If you thought DJ might feel a sharp pang of regret about skipping the Olympics, his fiancee's Instagram feed suggests otherwise.

Fake News: The 2017 Florida swing is canceled because of the Zika virus threat. 

Amateur History: Eun Jeong Seong. The 16-year-old became the first player to win the U.S. Girls' Junior and U.S. Women's Amateur in the same year. In the 36-hole final, she defeated Virginia Elena Carta, who was trying to pull a Bryson (winning the NCAAs and U.S. Am in the same year). Which leads us to ... 

Back to the Minors (For Now): Bryson DeChambeau. Despite an auspicious start to his pro career, he has now played the maximum 12 events allowed to non-members and didn't earn enough points to get his card. A trip to the Tour Finals looms. 

Lost Her Speaking Privileges: Diana Murphy. After bungling two consecutive trophy presentations on national TV, the USGA president reportedly did not address the crowd after Seong won the U.S. Women's Am. That's probably best.

Least Surprising News of the Week: John Daly.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Zach Johnson. He made his 10th consecutive cut, but the T-47 at the Travelers was the last thing we expected from a guy who (A) had four top-20s in his last five starts, and (B) finished sixth there last year on the course that rewards precision. Sigh.