Monday Scramble: Mixed emotions

By Mercer BaggsJune 26, 2017, 5:00 pm

Jordan Spieth wins in dramatic fashion, Phil Mickelson discusses his split from Jim Mackay and Rory McIlroy – maybe, perhaps, probably not – finds a suitable putter in this edition of Monday Scramble.

How one swing can change the narrative. By sinking his bunker shot on the first playoff hole at the Travelers Championship, Jordan Spieth revived Tiger Woods comparisons and reminded people of how much he’s accomplished in a short period of time.

But, boy, that Sunday evening news conference could have been much different.

A shaky putter, the inability to pull away from a field that wasn’t pressuring you, dumping a sand wedge in the bunker on the 72nd hole, that drive on the 73rd. You wouldn’t need to pick one, because they all would have been topics of conversation.

Instead, the focus is on Spieth’s “clutch gene” and Tiger-esque dramatics. And well it should be. Those other issues may rear their heads down the line, but for now, Spieth did what was necessary to win and did it with flair.

1. There’s plenty to dive into with Spieth’s win, but let’s start with the best part: The bunker hole-out. Spieth not only produced the shot, but he gave it the reaction it deserved. And give CBS credit for delivering the multiple angles. Here are a few:

2. We’re jaded. It’s not our fault; it’s Tiger’s. But stop and think about what Spieth has done before the age of 24, in a very competitive generation:

  • 10 PGA Tour wins
  • 2 major titles
  • 25th on the all-time money list (over $30 million, officially)

3. You have to take the good with the bad, it’s a fact of life. Spieth – like Tiger – is emotional. He’s going to seem petulant at times and he’s going to give you goose bumps at others. That’s who he is and it’s much better than someone who is stuck in the middle. It’s also worked out pretty well for him.

4. So, should Spieth be more apprehensive than elated? The guy above thinks there is cause for concern. So does the guy below:

When Rickie Fowler stumbled home but still won the Honda Classic in March, many wondered the same thing. He’s since earned three top-5 finishes and contended in the Masters and U.S. Open. But, in both, he struggled on Sunday. Hopefully Spieth’s in position after 54 holes of The Open to put his game to the test.

5. What he said:

6. “Jordan does Jordan things.” No one knows that better than Spieth’s contemporaries. Take this tweet, for example, sent out a few minutes before prediction came to fruition:

Credit to Daniel Berger for the way in which he handled defeat. He’s now 10th on the money list, 18th in the world and fourth on the Presidents Cup list

7. Rory McIlroy’s closing 64 wasn’t good enough to sneak into the top 10 at the Travelers, but it could be the start of something big. Using his third different putter of the week, McIlroy made seven birdies to only one bogey. And while he still took 30 putts, it should also be noted that he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday. McIlroy is off this week but playing the Irish Open and Scottish Open, ahead of The Open at Birkdale. That gives him a few more rounds to settle on a putter before the season’s third major.

8. Phil Mickelson and Jim Mackay announced the dissolution of their work marriage this past week. Men cried. Women wailed. A nation mourned. And we all questioned, why? Was it something we did? Is it irrevocable? If they can’t make it together forever, who among us has a chance?

Overkill? A smidge. But this story had the proper mix for an emotional cocktail: surprise, nostalgia, intrigue. And golf Twitter – accustomed to languishing in the weekly doldrums – drank it up like Fireball from a major trophy.

There were 140-character hot takes and thousand-word retrospectives. So many opinions to share – they must be heard! – and since everyone follows everyone else, we saw them all. What’s the lesson to be learned from the Phil-Bones split? That all good things must come to an end? No. It’s pare down your social media following. You’re not going to miss anything.

9. There remains the question, why? Was it a single back-breaking straw? A boss’s desire for something fresh in a fading career? A pair of bad knees that just couldn’t take it anymore? Mickelson was on “Morning Drive” on Monday and made it seem like it wasn’t a health issue for Bones, who had double knee replacement late last year. “We just could tell that it was time,” Mickelson said. “We just needed a little bit of change in environment to do something different.” Even if Mickelson and Mackay never provide full disclosure, golf Twitter will speculate until we form our own truth.

10. Anything Ariya can do, Ryu can do better? Two weeks after Ariya Jutanugarn won on the LPGA to vault to world No. 1, So Yeon Ryu did the same at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Ryu held on to defeat Ariya’s sister, Moriya, and Amy Yang by two. It’s her second victory of the year. In case you forgot, she won the ANA Inspiration in a playoff over Lexi Thompson.

(Warning: external links contain adult language)

Trump driving across the greens is such a Trump power move it hurts @foreplaypod (credit mikenfrank on twitter)

A post shared by Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) on

There is a scene in “Blazing Saddles” in which Harriett Johnson reads aloud – very aloud – a letter from the Rock Ridge collective to Gov. William J. Lepetomane. The particulars are different, but, in relation to President Donald Trump driving his cart across a green, the kicker is the same.

This isn’t political. It’s a simple matter of courtesy and etiquette. Anyone who drives a golf cart over a putting surface, whether they vote blue or red, whether they are black, white or orange, whether they are the leader of the free world, whether they own the course or not, they are the same people who wear sunglasses inside.

This week's award winners ... 

Cool runnings: Mr. Cool, Fred Couples, closed in 66 to win the American Family Insurance Championship. It's the 57-year-old's 13th career win on the PGA Tour Champions. Tournament host Steve Stricker tied for third.

Get better, Tiger: Tiger Woods announced last Monday that he was "currently receiving professional help to manage my medications and the ways that I deal with back pain and a sleep disorder." He will not be on hand for this week's Quicken Loans National, which benefits his foundaiton.

That guy from Tiger's ace?: Yep, that's him. Omar Uresti, who couldn't properly high-five Tiger Woods after he made a hole-in-one in Phoenix in 1997, won the PGA Professional Championship, which didn't go over well with all.

Must be the new blood in office: The PGA Tour announced that it will begin, starting next season, blood testing and public disclosure of suspensions for recreational drug violations. Welcome to the 21st century.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. There was reason for optimism, after he tied for third last year in Hartford, but Thomas ran out of gas and missed the cut (73-72) after his record-setting U.S. Open performance. Sigh. 

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.

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Bogey-free Moore shares Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Amid the swirling winds on a difficult track at the Valero Texas Open, Ryan Moore has yet to blink.

Moore was one of only two players among the 156-man field to go bogey-free during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, and he's now the only player still boasting a clean scorecard after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and the rest pars. At 9 under, the veteran shares the lead with Zach Johnson and was three shots clear of any other player at the end of the morning wave.

"Really, around this golf course what matters is the right distance," Moore told reporters. "You can get in some pretty tough spots if you're long and short. So I kind of hit it the right distance all day, gave myself plenty of good birdie opportunities and didn't stress myself out too much with too many up-and-downs."

While many players struggle to find a true offseason, Moore took nearly three months off between starts at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Waste Management Phoenix Open. During that time he shed nearly 20 pounds thanks to changes to his diet and teamed up with a new swing coach, Drew Steckel, in December.

The results have been solid if not spectacular, as Moore tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-16 last week at the RBC Heritage.

"It's been solid golf, especially the last few weeks. I haven't got a ton out of it," Moore said. "The putter just wasn't there. So this week, just got a little more comfortable with the putter and knocked a few putts in that kind of matter early in my rounds, and it's going in. That's kind of what's been missing lately."

Moore had a breakthrough season in 2016 that included his victory at the John Deere Classic and spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he hasn't sniffed career win No. 6 since a T-3 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 16 months ago. Should he keep a clean card this weekend in San Antonio, his chances to end that victory drought appear bright.

"I played some really nice golf yesterday, I just controlled the ball nicely all the way around and was bogey-free yesterday, so thought, 'Let's go try and do that again,'" Moore said. "So to play in tough, windy conditions, to go bogey-free (again), it was some good solid golf."

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Former champ Z. Johnson surges at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:31 pm

Midway through his opening round at the Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson appeared far closer to a missed cut than a spot on the leaderboard.

Johnson initially struggled in the winds at TPC San Antonio, playing his first 13 holes in 3 over. But he eagled No. 14 and closed with three more birdies to post a 2-under 70, then went unconscious during a second-round 65 where he made six birdies over his first 10 holes.

It added up to a 9-under total at the halfway point, and instead of packing his bags the two-time major champ now shares the lead with Ryan Moore.

"You just never know. That's the beauty of this game," Johnson told reporters. "I didn't have anything going putting-wise. I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. Shoot, I made some good pars all while being 3 over. You just never know."

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009, but that was when it was held across town at La Cantera Golf Club. Since the switch to TPC San Antonio in 2010, he has only one top-10 finish and two missed cuts, including last year's early exit with consecutive rounds of 74.

But Friday he played like a man unaware of the venue shift, with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 and a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker on the par-4 fifth hole. His closing bogey on No. 9 was his first dropped shot in the last 25 holes.

"The confidence is there, and when you can step on the tee with this kind of wind, you trust your clubs and trust your ball, that's pretty important," Johnson said. "I felt good. It was hard, I'm not going to deny that. That was one of the better 27-hole stretches that I've had in a long time."

Johnson's 65 was his first sub-70 score since an opening-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a span of 12 stroke-play rounds. The veteran has made every cut in 11 starts this season, but his T-8 finish at the RSM Classic in November remains his only top-10 finish.

"I felt really good coming into the week," Johnson said. "Confidence was there, it just wasn't showing up on the scorecard."