Monday Scramble: Good 'bye' for others

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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.