Monday Scramble: Week full of emotion and aces

By Mercer BaggsMay 25, 2015, 12:30 pm

Chris Kirk wins again; Jordan Spieth contends again; and Rory McIlroy misses the cut, not really again, but for the third time in two years, in this Ryan Lavner-free edition of Monday Scramble:

Stars aligned for the LPGA last year. The PGA Tour is the beneficiary of good fortune in 2015. Kirk's 72nd hole par-save to avoid a four-way playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational was the latest in a string of compelling finishes.

  • McIlroy won Wells Fargo by seven, but it was Rory, which made it worth watching
  • Rickie Fowler prevailed in a three-way playoff at The Players
  • McIlroy won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. It wasn't great theater, but, again, it was Rory
  • Justin Rose birdied 17 and 18 to win the Zurich Classic by one
  • Jim Furyk broke a five-year winless drought by winning in a playoff at the RBC Heritage
  • Spieth dominated in his breakout triumph at the Masters

Those are the most recent examples, but save for the odd week here and there, the Tour has produced world-class winners and dramatic finishes the entire year.

This week could have been a disaster, with multiple weather delays and the potential for another tape-delayed conclusion. And the event might have been better off, from a macro perspective, had Spieth won in a playoff. But, all in all, it was another entertaining Sunday on Tour. That's what the fans want. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. I saw that on a poster with a tortoise.

1. Before we dive into the past week, let's do some real remembering. It's Memorial Day. While it’s not easy to accurately determine, well over one million American men and women have died during service in war time, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. If you haven’t been affected directly, you likely know someone who has. Bless the fallen and pray for their survivors. And for those who have fought and lived, and those still willing to fight, do something for them. Say thank you in person. Buy them lunch. Donate to an organization of assistance like Folds of Honor. Create a care package with your kids; teach them the significance of the sacrifices others have made. Sometimes all people want is a little appreciation for the effort they make.

2. When Chris Kirk won the Viking Classic in 2011, didn't think much of it. When he won the McGladrey Classic in '13, still didn't give him much consideration. When he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in '14, I paid attention (more so than Tom Watson). And now: Time to apologize for my ignorance.

Nowadays, four wins on the PGA Tour gets you in the Hall of Fame conversation, right? What Kirk has done is impressive. He's reached that stage where he now needs to show us something in the majors. That's a good thing. That means you've accomplished enough in regular events to warrant major attention. Kirk has played in nine majors and has a best finish of T-19 at last year's British Open.

How you perform in those is the ultimate career definer. Kirk is still getting his feet wet in the big events. But after four Tour wins, it's time for him to make a splash.


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3. If not for that triple bogey on Friday. If not for the terrible bogey at No. 16 on Sunday. What could have been for Spieth? He was a few mistakes away from winning for the third time this year and moving closer to McIlroy for No. 1 in the world rankings. But, as someone once said, it is what it is. Spieth's T-2 was his third runner-up showing of the season, to go along with a pair of victories. No need to talk about who's PGA Tour POY front-runner. It's Spieth, without argument. And, for the record, he got 0.42 points closer to McIlroy in the OWGR. Which still leaves him 4.04 points in arrears - about the distance between Spieth and No. 12 Jimmy Walker.

4. Speaking of the world No. 1 - he had the weekend off after his BMW PGA MC. Over two rounds at Wentworth Golf Club, Rory looked like ... not Rory. He was horrible off the tee, which led to an astute observation from Golf Channel's Frank Nobilo, who stated that McIlroy lacks a second gear with his driver. It's Thor's hammer when it's working. When it's not, he's Moses without a map.

People say we shouldn't compare McIlroy to Tiger Woods, particularly when it comes to consistency. But we should. It should serve as a reminder as to how brilliant Woods was; not a knock on McIlroy. Rory is like a Tiger-Phil Mickelson Frankenstein. He's an amalgam of both, capable of histrionics and befuddlment.

What will we see at the U.S. Open? We did a Punch Shot earlier in the week, asking if McIlroy would be fatigued entering Chambers Bay. He definitely looked wiped at Wentworth. This week's Irish Open, where he is tournament host, promises to be tiring as well, but he'll have two weeks off before the Open. McIlroy is the betting favorite, but I'd put my money elsewhere. Then again, I'm just a backup Monday Scramble writer. What do I know? 


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5. Byeong-hun An won the BMW PGA Championship by six shots, setting a 72-hole tournament scoring record with his 21-under 267 total. For his efforts he earned:

  • Roughly $917,000
  • A three-year European Tour exemption
  • Spots in the U.S. and British Opens
  • A jump from 132nd to 54th in the Official World Golf Ranking

6. An is just the eighth U.S. Amatuer champion to win on the European or PGA tours since Woods re-popularized the event in mid-‘90s. Here are the professional highlights for the last 18 Amateur winners, dating back to 1997.

Gunn Yang (2014):

T-65 at Crowne Plaza, first made cut in five Tour starts. Still an amateur.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (2013):

European Tour member in '15. One top-10 finish.

Steven Fox (2012):

Won '14 Tennessee Open (state event). Runner-up finish in '15 on PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

Kelly Kraft (2011):

Won once on Web.com Tour ('15).

Peter Uihlein (2010):

Won once on European Tour ('13).

Byeong-hun An (2009):

Won once on European Tour ('15).

Danny Lee (2008):

Won once on European Tour ('09), once on Web.com Tour ('11).

Colt Knost (2007):

Two Web.com Tour wins.

Richie Ramsey (2006):

Three European Tour wins.

Edoardo Molinari (2005):

Two European Tour wins. Member of '10 European Ryder Cup team.

Ryan Moore (2004):

Four PGA Tour wins.

Nick Flanagan (2003):

Four Web.com Tour wins.

Ricky Barnes (2002):

T-2 at '09 U.S. Open. Over $5.8M in Tour earnings.

Bubba Dickerson (2001):

One Web.com Tour win ('09).

Jeff Quinney (2000):

One Web.com Tour win ('04).

David Gossett (1999):

One PGA Tour win ('01).

Hank Kuehne (1998):

Two runner-up finishes on PGA Tour.

Matt Kuchar (1997):

Seven PGA Tour wins.


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7. Colin Montgomerie successfully defended his title at the Senior PGA Championship on an exteremely challenging French Lick (Ind.) Resort course. Only five players finished under par and Monty was at 8 under, four shots clear of Esteban Toldeo and five removed from Woody Austin. He will try and repeat in June at the U.S. Senior Open, where he defeated Gene Sauers in a playoff last year. This is his third triumph in his last six senior major starts. But Dan Jenkins is probably not impressed.

8. Kevin Na led by one shot over Ian Poulter and by two over Charley Hoffman entering the final round at Colonial. None in the final threesome broke par. Na (2-over 72) and Hoffman (70) tied for 10th, while Poulter (70) tied for fifth. As Golf Channel's Nick Menta pointed out, they were the only players in the top 23 who didn't post a red number on Sunday.

9. Um, have you seen the scores at the NCAA Women's Division I National Championship? They're I-just-woke-up-and-I-don't-know-where-I-am scary. To explain why, as the ladies are set to air on Golf Channel for the first time, Monday-Wednesday, I defer to college expert and Monday Scramble orginator Ryan Lavner. Click here to read his column.

10. Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari were among players trying to earn spots into the U.S. and British Opens this past week. Molinari led the BMW PGA through three rounds, but closed in 2-over 74 to finish fifth. Still, at 58th in the OWGR, he made it into the U.S. Open. He needed to be top 50 to make it into the British, which means he may need to go through qualifying to compete at St. Andrews.

Donald, meanwhile, failed in both attempts. He can still make it to Chambers Bay through the OWGR if he can crack the top 60 as of June 15 (he's currently 65th). He'll likely have to go through qualifying, however, to make the British Open field. Donald (T-38) was in good shape this past week until a third-round 77 derailed him. Some have labeled him the worst No. 1 player ever. But that's like calling him the ugliest supermodel. Only 17 players since the OWGR's inception in 1986 have been ranked No. 1. He's one of them, and he took the No. 1 spot on four separate occassions. You can critcize him for what he hasn't done, but don't slight him for what he accomplished.

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Spectators occasionally get wacked in the head by an errant drive. It’s a risk you take when you buy a ticket. And if you stand in pine straw, 20 feet in front and 20 degree to the right of a player who just hit a tee shot 40 yards off line, the consequences are on you.

But nowhere is it more dangerous for fans than in pro-ams. They're all just deer in a field, man. Deer in a field.

This unassuming fella didn't get the memo. He's watching One Direction's Niall Horan tee off Wednesday at Wentworth, not taking into consideration that the gallery rope isn't a forcefield and that this kid sings in a boy band and does not play golf professionally, when Holy $&@!



The best part - aside from the wholely appropriate language we had to censor - was that Horan offers no audible or visual contrition. In the full video (which you can see here, uncensored), the guy credits his youth as a "goal-keeper" for his deft move to avoid death. Ladies and gentlemen, the British Al Bundy.

They were handing out car keys at the BMW PGA. Four aces were made and we've got them all. Well, we have three of them, as Craig Lee's didn't make tape, which is fine since he didn't win a car and withdrew after an opening 75, anyway.

  • We begin with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who made a hole-in-one for the second time in as many weeks and set a new European Tour record with 10 in his career:


  • Chris Wood won a BMW i8 with his ace. It's always amusing watching a tall man (he's 6'5") get into a tiny car:


  • Andrew "Beef" Johnston had the celebration of the week after his hole-in-one on Thursday:


  • And for good measure, we offer up a Tommy Fleetwood albatross:


  • A few other tidbits from the week: Billy Horshel used Periscope to showcase his practice rounds at Chambers Bay, while Poulter used the same social media device to talk with - presumably - fans while waiting for his weather-delayed first round to start at Colonial. Periscope allows people to showcase themselves - doing whatever they want - through video to others. Just download the app and you can watch a bare-chested Romanian man make pizza. Splendid. If anything, it could be used in the Ludovico Technique for aversion therapy to narcissism. ... U.S. Open local qualifiers and U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifiers were held this past week  ... People really got in a tizzy over McIlroy throwing a club in Round 2 at the BMW PGA. ... Even more so than when he told the BBC prior to the tournament that he might retire around the age of 40. ... And do what? Move to Del Boca Vista and run for condo president?
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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”