Monday Scramble: Back to normal?

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Kevin Kisner slams the door, Jordan Spieth gets back on track, Tiger Woods offers an update, the efficient machine that is Bernhard Langer rolls right along and more in this week's Memorial Day edition of Monday Scramble: 

With a tantalizing, four-way playoff on the horizon, Kevin Kisner ended things on time at Colonial.

Kisner rolled in a 5-foot par putt to finish one shot ahead of the pack at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, putting the finishing touches on a second PGA Tour win.

Kisner toiled through three different playoff losses during the summer of 2015 before breaking through for his first win at the RSM Classic, and his path to title No. 2 was equally indirect. He has been playing some solid - if under-reported - golf for much of the spring, highlighted by a runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a playoff loss alongside Scott Brown at the Zurich Classic.

Kisner's ability and potential have outpaced his hardware tally for a few years now. Adding a coveted title at one of his favorite venues helps to narrow the gap, but don't be surprised if the wait until win No. 3 is a short one.


1. Among other things, Kisner's win basically locked up his spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team this fall. And that's a good thing.

The American squad at Liberty National is going to feature some fresh blood, with Kisner and Justin Thomas essential locks, Kevin Chappell on his way to a bid and Daniel Berger likely to play his way off the bubble. It's a good thing for American golf to have as many players as possible exposed to the patriotic, high-stakes environment that only team match play can provide.

The wily veterans that have propelled the U.S. to six straight wins in tihe biennial event haven't exactly disappeared, and several familiar names will still make the 12-man squad. But a little experience can go a long way in those arenas, and this year's matches will create a deeper talent pool for next year's Ryder Cup - even if you'll never hear that sentence spoken in Ponte Vedra Beach.

2. It should come as no surprise that Kisner added his name to the Wall of Champions at Colonial Country Club.

This is his third straight top-10 finish in Fort Worth, and it comes on a course that has long favored ball-strikers. Kisner, who entered the week ranked 15th on Tour in strokes gained-tee-to-green, is now up to 10th in the statistic after extending his run to 11 of 13 sub-par rounds at Colonial.

"It's definitely at the top of my list when I set a schedule," Kisner said. "I love the golf course. It reminds me a ton of home. Really precision golf off the tee and into the greens."

From Zach Johnson to Phil Mickelson to Spieth, Colonial has typically been a place where a select few players tend to thrive year after year. Kisner's name can officially be added to the list.

3. Speaking of Spieth, it appears the thoughts of his game collapsing from within can be put to bed.

Last year Spieth used a win at Colonial to steady the ship after giving away a green jacket. This time, a final-round 65 led to a runner-up finish and proof that the golden child still has plenty of chops.

Spieth was coming off back-to-back missed cuts, a run that included a brief putter switch away from the weapon that guided him to each of his 12 career Tour wins. He went back to his trusty Scotty Cameron at Colonial and, despite flirting with the cut line during the second round, showed that his recent struggles are the exception rather than the rule.

"I could look back at the end of the year and this could be the most important round of the year," Spieth said Sunday. "I hope that's the case."

Spieth will cap a run of four straight starts next week at the Memorial. But regardless of how he fares at Jack's Place, woe to those who count him out for Erin Hills.



4. After his runner-up finish at Colonial, Jon Rahm is officially inside the top 10 in the latest world rankings. Expect him to be there for awhile.

Rahm's rapid ascension to a top-10 player comes 11 months after he turned pro, as this time last year he was collecting the Hogan Award as the nation's top collegiate player.

At age 22, he is the fifth-youngest to crack the top 10 since the Official World Golf Ranking was created. Those that beat him to the honor? Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Spieth and Woods.

Rahm is quickly racking up the accolades, but at the same time his game is proving that it's not all hype. The Spaniard is incredibly talented, and the flair with which he stalks a course - especially when in contention - will make him an entertaining player to watch for decades to come.

5. Billy Horschel tied for 34th at Colonial, but he and wife Brittany made a big impact in the wake of his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

One day after her husband's first victory in nearly three years, Brittany Horschel took to Twitter to explain that she has battled alcoholism for the last year, including a two-month stint at a treatment center in South Florida.

It was a brave admission in a very public setting, and one that Horschel admitted he wasn't expecting. But it's a step that hopefully helps in her continued recovery, and one that could potentially serve as an example for others waging a similar battle.

It's also another reminder that PGA Tour pros are people first and golfers second. Too often it's easy to get bogged down in stat lines and FedEx projections and lose sight of the fact that players often have bigger issues than just golf at the forefront of their thoughts.



6. Many casual American golf fans may have missed Alex Noren's rapid ascension through the world rankings thanks to four late-season wins last year. But Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship, they got a good glimpse of just what makes Noren one of the top players in the world.

Starting the final round seven shots off the lead, Noren eagled the 18th hole to shoot a course-record 62 and win the European Tour's flagship event by two shots. It was his ninth career European Tour victory, and his fifth since the Scottish Open in July.

Noren's late surge didn't land him a spot on the European team at Hazeltine last fall, and this year he has been somewhat quiet in a handful of PGA Tour starts. But a quarterfinal appearance at the WGC-Dell Match Play was followed by a 10th-place showing at TPC Sawgrass, and now Noren has his hands around one of Europe's most coveted trophies.

The Swede, who was outside the OWGR top 700 as recently as January 2015, has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the game's upper echelon. Don't be surprised if he adds another big notch to his tally this summer, perhaps as soon as next month at Erin Hills.

7. One man who wasn't at Wentworth last week was Rory McIlroy, and now we'll all be left wondering about the Ulsterman's nagging rib injury until he steps foot in Wisconsin.

McIlroy also withdrew from the Memorial, an unsurprising development once his BMW withdrawal statement put the focus squarely on the U.S. Open. But it doesn't help answer any questions about just how healthy McIlroy is, given that he has made just one start since the Masters.

McIlroy had planned an ambitious schedule around Erin Hills, and he still has plenty of important golf yet to play this summer. But the fact that he's not able to suit up for two weeks running shows that an injury he had hoped to kick by March will extend into June - and perhaps beyond.

8. A Branden Grace victory at Wentworth may not have sat well in the locker room given the South African's liberal interpretation of the rule book during his opening round.

Grace avoided a plugged lie in the sand because his feet reached the bunker lining upon digging in, entitling him to a free drop. Staring a likely double bogey in the face, Grace made bogey and ultimately moved to within a shot of the lead after 54 holes.

On one hand, the rule book so rarely benefits the player that Grace should be commended for knowing his options. But the move didn't sit well with Paul McGinley, who raised the astute point that if players simply dig deep enough they might be able to get out of a variety of poor lies.

It didn't help Grace's cause that his incident came on the same day when fellow South African Ernie Els was universally lauded for calling a two-stroke penalty on himself that emphasized the role honesty and integrity play inside the ropes.



10. "I want to say unequivocally that I want to play professional golf again."

Those were the words every Tiger Woods fan wanted to hear, and they were the ones the 14-time major champ penned during his first injury update since undergoing lumbar fusion surgery.

Woods was unusually candid, both with his current plight and the level to which the back pain had impacted him in recent months. But it also highlights the fact that his previous updates - of which there were many - were optimistic if not misleading.

Woods came out of each of his previous three back surgeries with a similar theme: recovery ahead, positive prognosis with an assurance that he'll return to competition. Even in his last start in Dubai, Woods told reporters that he was "feeling pretty good" and his eventual withdrawal was explained away by agent Mark Steinberg as a "back spasm."

Woods' latest diary entry shows that his situation was probably more serious than those comments in Dubai indicated.

It's nice to have what seems to be an open and honest injury update from Woods, and after years of pain it's encouraging to hear him say this latest procedure brought "instant nerve relief." A return to golf remains the goal, for Woods and everyone with ties to the game. But a long road to recovery lies ahead, and ultimately the proof will be in the pudding.

11. According to European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, it looks like the move of the PGA Championship to May is all but a done deal.

Pelley spoke during Golf Channel's second-round coverage at Wentworth and candidly theorized about his options for moving the BMW PGA should the PGA of America move its marquee event.

"If in fact the PGA Championship is moved to May, which I anticipate that it will, we will have to look where is the best fit for the BMW PGA Championship," Pelley said. "But obviously we would do everything around the majors."

Pelley also added earlier in the week that he expects a decision on future PGA dates to be made by the end of August. At this point, the surprise would be if the season's final major remained in its current slot.

Golf can be a frustrating game, even for a two-time major champ.

A fan snapped a photo of Johnson mid-meltdown during the third round at Colonial, with his clubs splayed in a wide radius around the green:

It was a scene you might expect in the 12th fairway at your local muni, but not one that pops up often on the PGA Tour - especially from a player with Johnson's credentials. But golf is, after all, a four-letter word.

"Not my proudest moment yesterday," Johnson tweeted Sunday. "Putter was stuck, yanked it out, many clubs came out, frustrated for sure. Tap in double. Ugh."

This week's award winners ... 


Second Verse, Same as the First: Bernhard Langer. We predicted in this space last week that Langer would add another senior major and he did just that, beating Vijay Singh by a shot to win the Senior PGA and pass Jack Nicklaus with his record ninth over-50 major.

Abacus in Hand: Gary Player, who openly questions Langer's newfound spot atop the senior major leaderboard. Player believes his three Senior Open titles (that came before it was designated a major) should count, giving him nine. He may have a point, but retroactively assigning major victories is a slippery slope.

Pretty Good for Part Time: 50-year-old Steve Stricker, who fired a final-round 63 at Colonial to tie for seventh. Erin Hills will be a much more interesting place next month if the Wisconsin native manages to sneak through sectional qualifying.

Staying at home: President Donald Trump, who opted not to make an appearance at Trump National following a week-long overseas trip to watch his friend, Langer, hoist the hardware on one of his eponymous golf courses.

Returning Home: Ha Na Jang, who is turning in her LPGA card to play full-time in her native Korea. It's an unfortunate loss for LPGA fans, as Jang was among the most colorful players on the circuit but never seemed to shake the freak accident where her luggage collided with In Gee Chun in a Singapore airport last year.

Hanging It Up: Ai Miyazato, who reached world No. 1 during the fall of 2010, will retire at the end of the season after citing a lack of motivation. The 31-year-old didn't win an LPGA major, but she did win nine LPGA titles from 2009-12 including the 2009 Evian before it became a major.


Going Out on Top: Monica Vaughn. The Arizona State senior rallied to win the NCAA individual title, then used her final day of college golf to lead the Sun Devils past Stanford and Northwestern en route to the school's first national title since 2008.

Will He or Won't He?: Maverick McNealy, who won the Hogan Award and days later saw his Stanford career come to a close. He'll likely remain amateur at least through the Walker Cup, but after that it will be fascinating to see if the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world opts out of a career inside the ropes.


Global Performer: Japan's Hideto Tanihara, who proved his run to the semis at the WGC-Dell Match Play was no fluke when he rallied for a T-3 finish at Wentworth. Tanihara overcame an opening-round 76 and earned a spot in The Open in the process.

DFS MVP: Kevin Tway. He may not have a win and certainly doesn't receive much hype, but Tway's recent results speak for themselves: T-3, third, T-5, T-20 and T-18 in his last five starts. Leave him on your fantasy bench at your own peril.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Ryan Palmer. A Colonial membership and a partisan crowd has translated into success for Palmer at this event in the past. This time around, all it meant was a tie for 70th among the 72 that made the cut. Alas.