Monday Scramble: Golf's fabulous fortnight in Rio

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 22, 2016, 4:00 pm

Inbee Park takes home gold, Si Woo Kim wins the Wyndam, Darren Clarke's European Ryder Cup team is nearly set and more in this week's Monday Scramble.

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson's battle for the gold medal was a heck of an opening act at the Olympics. And while the race for gold wasn't nearly as exciting for the women, it was still an incredible two weeks in Rio for golf.

It's been mentioned already, but it's worth repeating – the sport is in better shape than it was two weeks ago. And could there be a better endorsement for golf's inclusion in the Olympics?

There were plenty of concerns heading into the Games, but the top players rose to the occasion and it became clear early on that, yes, this was something bigger than another 72-hole, stroke-play event.

In the end, six medals were handed out to six different countries – Great Britain, Sweden, the United States, Korea, New Zealand and China. Those who missed out on the podium were heartbroken when the realization hit that it would be another four years before they would get another chance.

With great attendance in Rio and strong TV ratings, it would be very surprising not to see golf become a fixture at the Olympics, long past Tokyo in 2020.

1. After she won her fourth different major title last year (and seventh of her career), our Randall Mell wrote that Park “closed with a vengeance” when she came from three back to take the Women’s British at Turnberry.

Saturday in Rio, she cruised with a vengeance. As her playing competitors, Lydia Ko and Gerina Piller, struggled with the wind – or perhaps the grand stage – early in the round, Park went out in a bogey-free 4-under 31 two go from up two to up six.

Yes, a hard-charging Shanshan Feng quickly cut the lead to three, but the result was never in doubt. Park displayed her signature staid demeanor as she left the field in the dust and reasserted herself as a dominant force in the women’s game after months of injury and absence and doubt.

2. Speaking of which, it sounds like we can press pause on the idea of any imminent retirement. While she’s been honest about wanting to start a family in the near future, Park told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis after the gold medal ceremony that “there is no plan for retirement at the moment.”

“I really haven’t planned for anything,” she said, “so I’m just going to go day by day and see.”

Regardless of how she performed in Rio or how she wants to wind down her career, Park always owed it to herself to play the Evian next month. Her win at Turnberry prompted a lot of hand-wringing when it came to whether Park had actually won the career Grand Slam, given her claim to only four of the LPGA’s current five major titles. [She won the Evian before it was deemed a major.]

Frankly, the debate was and remains silly. Whatever we do or don’t call it, we all know the circumstances and the facts. There were five majors, then four, now five again. Park has four. Call it what you want.

3. A Park victory at next month's Evian would mean an end to the equivocating. She would become only the second player in the game’s history to win five different majors, joining Karrie Webb, who won the now-defunct du Maurier in 1999.

Park is already the only player in history to own multiple majors and Olympic gold. While wunderkinds like Ko and Brooke Henderson will have the opportunity to play in 50 majors over the next 10 years, they’ll only be able to play in the Olympics twice over that same span.

It’s going to be hard enough to win a medal on its own. If Park is able to complete the Grand Slam and boast Olympic gold, she could be in a class by herself for a long time. She probably already is.


Justin Rose


4. While we’re discussing gold, the medals that belong to Park and Rose are going to be held in higher esteem four years from now in Tokyo.

Both the men’s and women’s medal stands were filled with three of the top-15 players in the world. Both events benefitted from the major-championship pedigrees of their contenders. Who knows what the world will look like in 2020, but it’s highly unlikely Tokyo will resemble Rio.

Let’s assume there won’t be a mosquito-transmitted virus, polluted water or unpaid police forces. Short of a zombie apocalypse, the top players in the world will go, they will be excited and the IGF will fully realize its dream for Olympic golf.

The scarcity of opportunity will make Olympic medals precious commodities. Now let’s announce Bill Murray as the official 2020 mascot and enjoy relaxing times.

5. With respect to both Japan and the medal stand, Haru Nomura and Stacy Lewis missed out on a potential playoff for bronze Saturday by a combined ... three inches? Maybe four? Lewis arrived at the 72nd hole 9 under for the week and left her birdie putt hanging on the edge, one roll short. Had it dropped, she would have tied Feng at 10 under, forcing a playoff had all things stayed the same (which they probably would have – more on that in a minute).

Nomura, on the other hand, unknowingly cost herself a medal during the first round on Wednesday when she missed this backhanded tap-in attempt.

6. As for that would-be playoff, Terry Gannon, Annika Sorenstam and Curt Byrum made a point during the coverage to hammer home that Feng does not look at leaderboards down the stretch.

Gannon could best be described as mildly apoplectic, and it’s hard to disagree with him. There is a logic to playing with blinders on, but when you’re coming down the stretch, wouldn’t you want to know what you need to do to win? It’s impossible to say whether Feng would have done anything differently, whether her three-putt par at 18 would have somehow turned into something else. It’s just hard to get over that look of pleasant surprise that came to her face when she finally looked at the leaderboard.



7. Poor Gerina Piller. But you know what? Good for you, Gerina Piller. It’s refreshing to see athletes who care this much.

Contrast Piller’s emotion, resolve and general level of give-a-damn with Dustin Johnson last year at Chambers Bay. Who is more relatable? Who is more likeable? Who are you more likely to root for in the future? Hold your head high, Gerina Piller. You’ll be back.

8. There is still one more week until it's official, but Clarke's Ryder Cup team is almost complete. With a fifth-place finish at the Czech Masters, Matthew Fitzpatrick secured the ninth spot on the team, and no matter what happens this week there won't be any scenario where someone can pass him.

That means the automatic qualifiers for Clarke's team are: Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Danny Willett, Open champion Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andy Sullivan and Fitzpatrick.

A nice mix of major champions, Ryder Cup veterans and rookies who are proven winners.

Clarke will have an extra week to ponder his three picks before the August 29 deadline. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are likely picks, but Shane Lowry, Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters are all strong contenders for Clarke's consideration.



9. The race to make Davis Love III's U.S. team will be a juicy subplot at The Barclays. One thing is for sure with each passing week, it is getting harder and harder for Love not to pick Jim Furyk.

He dropped from T-3 to T-10 Sunday with a sloppy double bogey on 18, but Furyk still moved up to No. 15 in the U.S. standings. Incredibly impressive since his season didn't begin until May, and he didn't start making a serious move up the rankings until a T-2 at the U.S. Open.

10. So who is looking like the odd-man out? Fowler hasn't done much this summer, and even worse his putter has been chilly. But Holmes hasn't been stellar, either. He missed his third cut in a row at the Wyndham, and fourth in his last five events. The last time he made the cut, he finished third at The Open.

11. Thanks to a rain delay, Si Woo Kim had to wait a little longer for his first PGA Tour win that was never in doubt on Sunday. The 21-year-old Korean became the youngest winner of the season, and the youngest international winner since Seve Ballesteros (20) won in Greensboro in 1978.

This will be a strong contender for the WTH? Hall of Fame.

In the final round of the Web.com Tour's News Sentinel Open, there was a threesome of Jhared Hack, Adam Schenk and Ryan Yip

That's right – Hack, Schenk and Yip.

Not quite a legendary threesome like Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, but still unforgettable, nonetheless.

This week's award winners ... 

More International Flavor: As if the Olympics didn't prove how global golf has become, for the third time in four years the U.S. Amateur champion is from outside the U.S. Australia's Curtis Luck won eight consecutive holes on his way to defeating Oklahoma's Brad Dalke, 6 and 4, in the 36-hole finale.

Ace is the Place: Scott Brown is making quite the name for himself at the Wyndham without taking home the trophy. Last year he made an ace in the final round at the par-3 third while paired with Tiger Woods. On Sunday, he aced the same hole again, this time with Boo Weekley as his witness.

That's Nice, But ...: Brown's ace was remarkable, but it didn't payoff as handsomely as Luke Donald's. Donald made a hole-in-one Thursday at the par-3 16th to win vacations for life at Wyndham Resorts. And as if his week wasn't going well already, Donald finished second, collected a six-figure paycheck and now he heads into the playoffs with a great chance to make the Tour Championship.

Talk About Some VIPs: Before the playoffs start, Rory McIlroy and buddy Niall Horan of One Direction watched Ireland's Conor McGregor defeat Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in Las Vegas.

Getty Images

McIlroy: U.S. Open MC 'blessing in disguise'

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 11:47 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Watching a major championship unfold from the comfort of your living room is never an ideal strategy for any top-ranked pro, but sometimes players are forced to make the best of a bad situation.

Case in point Rory McIlroy, who ballooned to an opening-round 80 at the U.S. Open and never factored after that. The Ulsterman struggled to find a comfort zone at Shinnecock Hills, missing the U.S. Open cut for the third straight year.

But given a few extra days to prep, McIlroy appears to have cured what was ailing him after leading the Travelers Championship field in a number of ball-striking categories during an opening-round 64 that left him one shot behind leaders Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Obviously you never want to miss a cut in a major, but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of the year,” McIlroy said.

Even after hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation during his second trip around Shinnecock, McIlroy went back to the drawing board as he looks to emulate the swing he used in 2010 and 2011 when he won twice on the PGA Tour including the U.S. Open. While he notes that changes to his body will limit his ability to conjure an exact replica, he’s more in search of the positive thoughts that helped get his burgeoning pro career off the ground.

“It’s just trying to go back and, OK, I was swinging it really well then. What was I doing? What was I thinking about? What was the focus on the swing?” McIlroy said. “Just trying to rack your brain to recreate feelings that you had back then. That’s basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really sort of resonated with me, and brought me back to a time when I was swinging it really well, and just sort of went with that feeling.”

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy get back on track at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 11:18 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – What a difference a week makes.

Players speak in unison about a desire to peak four times per year when the major trophies are on the line. But it’s a soft science, easier said than done. Sometimes the key is to play your way onto the biggest stages, while other times the best practice is to build reps far away from the PGA Tour rope line.

Jordan Spieth got to Shinnecock Hills the weekend before the U.S. Open began, logging two full practice rounds before sitting down for his pre-tournament interview. Rory McIlroy went to an even further extreme, basically establishing residency in the Hamptons while playing every top-100 golf course within a 20-mile radius.

They were concerted efforts, carefully calculated plans of attack that both men hoped would yield a second U.S. Open title. They also blew up in their faces in record time.

Spieth was 4 over after just two holes at Shinnecock, while McIlroy played his first 11 in 10 over. Just like that, the best-laid plans got lost in the knee-high fescue as one of a finite number of legitimate shots at major glory went by the wayside before lunch was served.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Both players snuck off the premises well before the course became the weekend storyline, each bearing the battle scars of a missed cut. But given a chance to quickly reverse their fortunes, they both took full advantage at the Travelers Championship.

Spieth has spoken openly in recent weeks about the wars he continues to wage with his own game, as his putter has been downgraded from balky to outright uncooperative. Just as things started to turn around on the greens at the Memorial, his reliable ball-striking began to fade. A full-blown game of whack-a-mole has ensued.

“It’s certainly a testing year for me, and it’s a building year,” Spieth said. “It’s one where I can actually come out stronger. I’ve kind of looked at it that way the last couple months.”

It’s also been difficult for Spieth simply to get out of the gates in recent weeks. His third-place showing at the Masters remains a high water mark, but it was the product of a scintillating finale that came after starting the day well off the pace. Spieth remains candid about the fact that he has lacked a quality chance to win this year, one that he has previously defined as being within six shots of the lead entering Sunday.

All of those factors combined to make his opening 63 especially satisfying, as he returned to TPC River Highlands as defending champ and quickly grabbed a share of the lead, once again carving up a lush layout where he has nothing but positive memories.

“First rounds have been tough for me, trying to do a little bit too much. Trying to get shots back when I drop one and trying to have to birdie easy holes,” Spieth said. “The putter is starting to look better to me, so I can play a little bit more conservatively and still get a lot out of the round.”

McIlroy was alongside Spieth and Zach Johnson before a bogey on the final hole, but even a 6-under 64 matched his low round of the season on Tour. The Ulsterman downplayed his eye-popping score at Shinnecock entering a fresh week, noting that his tee-to-green performance where he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation during the second round might be good enough to win this week at a more vulnerable venue.

It appears his thesis has merit, albeit through one round.

“I did a lot of similar things to what I did today. It’s just a completely different animal,” McIlroy said. “Like, it’s nice getting off to a good start here. But as I keep saying, I’m not playing that differently now than I did last Thursday, and it’s a 16-shot difference.”

Just like his last competitive round, McIlroy missed only one green in regulation. But this time the stat line portends even greater potential, as he also led the field Thursday in driving distance, strokes gained: off the tee and strokes gained: tee-to-green.

McIlroy’s ceiling remains absurdly high, as demonstrated by the way he surged from the pack to win at Bay Hill and seemingly took early command of the BMW PGA Championship without breaking a sweat. It also doesn’t need lowering after a couple errant days on a grand stage.

“I played really well today. I feel like the work that I did over the weekend sort of started to pay off already,” McIlroy said. “Being able to work the ball both ways was something I wasn’t quite as comfortable doing last week.”

Despite flooding their respective scorecards with birdies, neither Spieth nor McIlroy created any distance from the field on a day when low scores were ripe for the picking. A total of 22 players opened with rounds of 66 or better, including four major champions not named Spieth or McIlroy.

But after pouring time, effort and energy into last week’s major and watching it all go so horribly wrong, this was a day to remember that sometimes the solutions are closer than the recent results make them appear.

“I’ve been sticking to the process. I’ve been very positive about making progress from how I got pretty off earlier this year. So it’s nice to see a good score,” Spieth said. “Just glad. The first rounds have been kind of detrimental to me, so it’s nice to be in the thick of things.”

Getty Images

Spieth shares Hartford lead; Rory 1 back

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 10:35 pm

Just a few miles north but light years removed from the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills, the PGA Tour returned to week-in, week-out normalcy with the Travelers Championship. Here's what happened in the first round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.:

Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Rory McIlroy (-6), Peter Malnati (-6), Brian Harman (-6)

What it means: The two biggest names in the field, Spieth and McIlroy, are looking for a boost of confidence after missing the cut in the U.S. Open. Their scores look good, but McIlroy won't be happy about closing with a bogey.

Round of the day: Johnson and Spieth both put up 7-under 63s. Johnson, after a relatively pedestrian 2-under front nine, caught fire on the back, making six consecutive birdies on holes 11-16. A three-putt bogey at the 17th ended the run, and he parred the last for his 63. Spieth, the defending champion, put up two birdies and an eagle on the front and four more birdies on the back. Like Johnson, he had only one blemish, a bogey-5 on the drivable par-4 15th when he hooked his drive into the water.

Best of the rest: McIlroy, Malnati and Harman each shot 64. Malnati eagled the 15th and followed that with birdies at 16 and 17 and a back-nine 29. Harman had a rare birdie on the 444-yard 18th for his 64, but McIlroy threw away a shot at the closing hole to fall out of a share of the lead. His right foot slipped as he was hitting his approach shot, and he missed the green. After taking a drop to get away from a sprinkler head, he was unable to get up and down.

Biggest disappointment: Bubba Watson, a two-time winner of this event, could manage no better than an even-par 70. Two-under through 11 holes, he bogeyed three of the next four.

Shot of the day: Can we safely say that Spieth likes the bunkers at River Highlands? Last year he got up and down from one at the 18th hole to get into a playoff, then he holed out from the same bunker to win the playoff. On Thursday he worked his magic at the par-5 sixth hole, sinking his sand shot for eagle.

Biggest storyline going into Friday: Most eyes will be on Spieth and McIlroy, to see if they're over their U.S. Open funks and gearing up for The Open Championship.

NBC Sports Group to Showcase Top Players in Women's Golf With Comprehensive Coverage of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, June 25-July 1

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

Golf Channel and NBC to Combine for More Than 40 Hours of News, Tournament and Instruction On-Site from Kemper Lakes Golf Club, Most in Tournament History 

KPMG Ambassador Phil Mickelson to Join Golf Central on Monday, June 25 Live from Soldier Field 

Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani to Headline KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Wednesday, June 27

 

ORLANDO, Fla., June 21, 2018 – Featuring one of the strongest fields of the year, NBC Sports Group will dedicate more than 40 hours of comprehensive on-site news, tournament and instruction coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – most in tournament history – Monday, June 25 - Sunday, July 1. Taking place at Kemper Lakes Golf Club near Chicago, the third LPGA Tour major of the season will be headlined by World No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 3 Lexi Thompson, ANA Inspiration champion Pernilla Lindberg and defending champion Danielle Kang. In 2017, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was the most-watched women’s major championship of the year. 

Through the partnership with KPMG, the PGA of America and the LPGA Tour, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has been elevated to become one of the most impactful weeks of the year in women’s golf,” said Molly Solomon, executive vice president of content, Golf Channel. “As the broadcast partner for the championship, we strive to elevate our coverage each year to celebrate not only the best players in women’s golf but also female leaders in the workplace through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.” 

BROADCAST TEAM: Live tournament coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be anchored by Dan Hicks, joined by Paige Mackenzie and Gary Koch in the broadcast booth. Tom Abbott will report from an on-course tower, with Kay Cockerill, Jerry Foltz and Mark Rolfing walking the course. Steve Sands will conduct player interviews. 

NBC SPORTS GROUP TO IMPLEMENT POPULAR “PLAYING THROUGH” ENCHANCED COMMERCIAL BREAKS: Making its debut on NBC at the Ryder Cup in 2016, Golf Channel and NBC will implement the popular “Playing Through” enhancement in an effort to elevate the viewing experience for fans tuning in to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. NBC Sports Group is partnering with several national advertisers to present select commercial breaks in utilizing “Playing Through,” which will employ a split-screen model for a select number of national commercial breaks. This enhanced break will display both the commercial with audio as well as a continuous feed of the tournament action. 

COMPREHENSIVE ON-SITE NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel’s signature news programs, Golf Central and Morning Drive, will provide comprehensive, wraparound news coverage throughout the week, produced on-location at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. In addition to daily shows, Golf Central will present special player news conference shows Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26 and 27, at 5 p.m. ET. 

Rich Lerner will anchor Golf Central’s live coverage alongside LPGA major champion Karen Stupples and Arron Oberholser beginning Wednesday, June 27, with Lisa Cornwell reporting and conducting player interviews. Chantel McCabe will set the stage each day on Morning Drive with on-site interviews and analysis, with Paige Mackenzie joining her Monday-Wednesday. 

PHIL MICKELSON TO JOIN GOLF CENTRAL LIVE FROM SOLDIER FIELD MONDAY, JUNE 25: Kicking off KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week will be the KPMG Windy City Skills Challenge, taking place at Soldier Field in Chicago on Monday, June 25. KPMG Ambassadors Phil Mickelson and Mariah Stackhouse along with athletes from the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Fire, Red Stars and Skywill be conducting a special clinic and skills challenge event with local youth organizations. Mickelson will join Golf Central live from Soldier Field on Monday following the conclusion of the skills challenge. 

SCHOOL OF GOLF ON-SITE AT KEMPER LAKES: School of Golf will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. from on-site at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, with Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal hosting a special short-game episode. Scheduled guests include 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn and her coaches, Golf Channel Academy coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, as well as LPGA major champion Morgan Pressel.  

KPMG WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP SUMMIT: Golf Central will offer news coverage of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, which will be hosted on-site Wednesday, June 27, featuring an assembly of accomplished leaders in sports, business, politics and media to inspire the next generation of women leaders. 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani will headline the gathering. NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya will serve as master of ceremonies. The summit will be streamed live on Wednesday on Golf Channel Digital. In addition, portions of the summit also will be streamed via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live. 

DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Golf Channel Digital will feature expanded editorial content during KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell will report from Kemper Lakes Golf Club with columns and daily blogs, and Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will contribute to Golf Channel’s social media platforms with exclusive behind-the-scenes content throughout the week. Golf Channel and NBC also will integrate social media throughout the telecasts, incorporating social media posts from players and fans using the hashtag #KPMGWomensPGA. 

News and tournament action surrounding the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship can be accessed at any time on any mobile device and online via Golf Channel Digital. Fans also can stream NBC Sports’ coverage of live golf via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports app.

 GOLF CHANNEL / NBC LIVE TOURNAMENT AIRTIMES(all times Eastern):

Thursday, June 28

Round 1

11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Golf Channel

Friday, June 29

Round 2

11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Golf Channel

Saturday, July 30

Round 3

3-6 p.m.

NBC

Sunday, July 1

Final Round

3-6 p.m.

NBC

 

The PGA of America and KPMG joined forces with the LPGA Tour in 2015 to create a world-class major championship that not only sustains the 60-year legacy of the former LPGA Championship, but also aims to elevate women on and off the golf course. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship provides a platform to inspire the next generation of women leaders through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and the KPMG Future Leaders Program.

 -NBC Sports Group-