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?

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter