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?
Getty Images

Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

Getty Images

Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

Getty Images

McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.