Monday Scramble: Reed joins prestigious club

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Patrick Reed rescued the PGA Tour from a worst-case scenario by delivering a knockout punch on the first playoff hole to win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. With the Kapalua finale headed into overtime, and the college football championship already underway, Reed’s fourth victory in the past 17 months kept some of the national focus on golf – at least temporarily. 

More on Reed’s brilliance, Walker’s close call and the rest of the week’s happenings in this beat-the-midnight-deadline edition of the Monday Scramble


The Takeaway

There’s little room left on the Patrick Reed bandwagon after the 24-year-old’s comeback victory Monday at Kapalua. Ridiculed for months for having the gall to express his inner belief, he’s now viewed as a megastar in this era of parity. He’s aggressive. He’s a closer. He relishes the big moment. That’s the total package. Just a year removed from duking it out in Monday qualifiers, he became a multiple-time winner before rankling some members of the Tour fraternity with his “top-five” comment at Doral. That boast will follow him until he reaches that elite status, but he’s getting closer, rising to No. 14 in the world after his fourth title since August 2013. Perhaps it is Reed – not Jordan Spieth, not Rickie Fowler – who will pose the greatest threat to Rory McIlroy


The Scorecard

1. In the past 20 years, there are only four players who earned four or more PGA Tour wins before their 25th birthday:

  • Tiger Woods
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Rory McIlroy 
  • And Patrick Reed, who is 24 years, 5 months. 

2. Jimmy Walker may exude self-confidence and calm on the course, but his last two appearances with a chance to win tell a different story. Last February at Pebble, he had a six-shot lead before closing with 74, making three bogeys in his last seven holes. He hung on to win by one. Here, he had a three-shot lead before playing his last eight holes in 1 over, failing to make birdie on any of the remaining three par 5s (including in the playoff). Walker is among the most consistent players in the game – his 12 top 10s are tied for the most since the start of the 2013-14 season – but it’s apparent the late bloomer is still learning how to win. 

3. Rory McIlroy had a rare swing-and-miss last weekend when he supported Marshawn Lynch’s stiff arm of the media and added that the running back is “paid to play not answer questions.” That was troubling, because the exercise of athletes talking to reporters is part of the job description. Players receive those lofty paychecks because of fan interest, and the media acts as the fans’ representative, offering insights through access. There’s a reason the NFL slapped Lynch with a hefty $100,000 fine – to ensure that he’s not an example for athletes everywhere.

4. No one’s New Year’s Resolution is to pack on pounds, so thankfully Natalie Gulbis is here to help with all of your workout needs:

5. Two of the most fascinating nuggets from Golf Digest writer Jaime Diaz’s deep dive on the Gleneagles Ryder Cup:

• a.) Phil Mickelson found out that Tom Watson had told his fellow playing competitors at the 2013 Greenbrier Classic, “I won’t be afraid to bench one of these prima donnas.” As it turned out, Tiger wasn’t healthy enough to qualify and Phil sat all day Saturday for the first time in his career. Maybe Lefty shouldn’t have been so surprised.  

• b.) After Mickelson informed Watson that he had missed only three fairways in his last five foursomes matches in the Ryder and Presidents Cups – an assertion that seems very unlikely – the captain opted for Phil and partner Keegan Bradley instead of the red-hot Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed on Friday afternoon. When the U.S. team was on the eighth tee, Watson reportedly approached Mickelson and Bradley and woofed, “When are one of you (expletive) going to hit a fairway?”

6. Never again should fans complain that the Rules of Golf is too complicated. Just crack open the NFL rulebook.

7. The Year of Rejoicing was sooo 2014. Here’s Bubba Watson, backing off a shot and snapping at a cellphone-wielding fan at Kapalua: “You got it? Good picture? Got it? Thanks. Hope it looked good.”

8. How does a player with a swing as pure and a short game as sharp as Charl Schwartzel's have only three wins since the 2011 Masters – two in his native South Africa, the other in a limited-field event in Thailand? He seemed a lock for another one Sunday at the South African Open but blew a four-shot lead on the final five holes. Yes, there are plenty of underachievers in golf – Sergio and DJ come to mind – but clearly this is not how we thought Schwartzel’s career would unfold, post-Masters.

9. For years Woods has talked about needing “reps” while rarely deviating from a predictable schedule of favorite Tour stops. Adding Phoenix was a welcome sight, but he needs to go even further in 2015. After a year of injury, inactivity and ineffectiveness, he’d be wise to play as much as possible and get himself back in competitive shape – especially if he’s healthy.

10. Ousted PGA president Ted Bishop tried to make amends by tweeting at Ian Poulter – the target of his infamous “lil girl” remarks – that he selected him in the fourth round of his fantasy draft. Nice try, but everyone knows Poults is a seventh-rounder, at best.  

11. Speaking of fantasy, here are a few guys I’ll have in my lineup this week at the Sony Open: Sang-Moon Bae (four top-six finishes in his last five worldwide starts), Chris Kirk (back-to-back top-five finishes at Waialae), Charles Howell III (top 10s in five of the past six years) and Tim Clark (T-2s in two of his past three starts there). 


The WTH? Moment of the Week

This tan line is VERY disturbing:


Shag Bag

Chris Kirk made all 16 putts he faced inside 15 feet during a course-record-tying 62 on Monday. Jason Day, who also fired a 62, was 16 of 17 from that range. What a slouch. … A sponsorship with Vineyard Vines. A slimmed-down physique. Apparently Jason Dufner isn’t too old to join Auburn’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. … The Kordas might rival the Mannings for top athletic family. Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova were professional tennis players, with Petr even rising to No. 2 in the world following his 1998 Australian Open title. One of Petr’s daughters, Jessica, is a 21-year-old stud who has already won three LPGA titles. His other daughter, 16-year-old Nelly, captured the prestigious Harder Hall Invitational amateur tournament last week. A pro career seems likely. No surprise there. … Construction on the Olympic Golf Course is finally complete, after a few years of lawsuits, setbacks and headaches. Poor Gil Hanse probably can’t wait until Aug. 22, 2016 – when the Olympics are over.  


The #AskLav Mailbag

Knew that one was coming. Reed’s victory at Kapalua should be further proof that it’s harder than ever to win on the PGA Tour. There were only two top-10 players in the field in Maui, and yet it took a late hole-out (and some help) to seal the W. Consistency has still been an issue in Reed’s young career, but it’s easy to see him factoring in at least a few Big Ones. 

Nerves, mostly. Over the past two rounds, he played his first 28 holes in 11 under par, with no bogeys and 14 one-putts. In his last eight, he was 1 over, with zero birdies and no one-putts. There are some beastly holes coming down the stretch, of course, but there are also some easy birdie opportunities that Walker couldn’t take capitalize on.  

The dangers of drinking and tweeting.