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Monday Scramble: Rahm, Henderson earn popular wins

By Ryan LavnerApril 16, 2018, 3:00 pm

Jon Rahm wins at home, Satoshi Kodaira rallies, Brooke Henderson impresses, Kelly Kraft stews and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Each of the top players has a weakness – iron play, accuracy, short putting, temperament – but Jon Rahm might be best positioned for success.

He has proven, with five wins in just 15 short months, that he can triumph anywhere and everywhere.

Winning on one of the most difficult courses on Tour (Torrey Pines) and one of the easiest (PGA West), taking the title when it’s blustery (Ireland) and dome-like (Dubai), Rahm can now add another line to his increasingly impressive résumé, outlasting the field and steeling himself to capture his home open in Spain.

There will be rough patches, of course, since these stars are not machines. But it’s worth noting that the 23-year-old Rahm has missed only one cut since the U.S. Open.

He brings it every time he tees it up, often giving himself a chance to win, wherever that may be.


1. Rahm didn’t rise in the rankings after taking the Spanish Open title, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a significant victory.

Playing his home open for the first time, he closed with 67 to hunt down Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira and win for the second time this year. A week after finishing fourth at the Masters, Rahm flew 14 hours and still shot 20 under par.

For now Rahm remained at No. 4 in the world, even with the victory, but he's expected to leapfrog Spieth in two weeks. Math!

2. To many players, a home open is as important as any event outside of the majors. At age 23, Rahm became just the fifth Spaniard to win the Spanish Open over the past 40 years, joining Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

“It’s truly been the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had in any tournament that I’ve won, because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much,” he said afterward. “You can tell how excited everybody is. I felt that tension; I felt that stress. I felt everything magnified.”

3. So Rahm was able to handle the pressure of trying to win at home. Elvira, it seems, could not.

Tied for the lead with two holes to play, Elvira missed on the 71st hole the only place he could not – left, in the water. He still would have had a chance on the home hole, but he yipped a 3-footer for a deflating double bogey.

He finished third, three shots back. Dunne, the 54-hole leader, wound up in second.



4. Satoshi Kodaira erased a six-shot deficit on the final day at the RBC Heritage. In difficult conditions he shot a 5-under 66, then waited around to see if his 12-under 272 would be enough.

Locked in a playoff with Players champion Si Woo Kim, Kodaira made two pars before rolling in a 25-footer for the win on the third extra hole.

The Heritage was just his 15th career PGA Tour start.

“To win this quickly is a big surprise to me,” he said.

5. Never heard of Kodaira?

He’s a six-time Japan Tour winner who has never had a top-25 in a major. (Though he tied for 28th at the Masters.) Last year, he won twice and ripped off 13 other top-10s on the Japanese circuit to soar up the world rankings. He entered the week at No. 46 and now is all the way up to 27th – ahead of guys like Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger.  

Clearly, he has a ton of game. He finished the week ranked sixth in strokes gained: off the tee and seventh in the tee-to-green statistics.

“This course is very similar to the courses in Japan – a little bit shorter and a shape course,” he said. “I felt very comfortable.”



6. Kodaira benefited from Kim’s horrible day on the greens.

Entering the week ranked 209th out of 210 players on Tour in strokes gained: putting, Kim predictably looked lost at times. Holding a slim lead down the stretch, he missed putts of 4, 7, 5 and 6 feet over the last four holes to drop into the playoff. In overtime, he also missed a pair of 20-footers.

It was all part of a round in which Kim lost nearly three strokes to the field on the greens and holed a combined 33 feet of putts. With stats like that, it was a miracle he was even in contention and able to shoot even par on Sunday.

“Rather than it being nerves,” Kim said through a translator, “I think with the weather, it kind of slowed the greens down and affected them, how I made the putts. But I tried my best and the putts didn’t drop.”

As sweet as Kim’s swing appears, there’s a reason why the two-time Tour winner has also missed 22 cuts over the past three seasons.

7. Six Sunday birdies helped Dustin Johnson salvage a respectable showing in his Palmetto State homecoming.

A new RBC ambassador, Johnson was playing the Heritage for the first time since 2009. He had missed the cut in his two prior appearances at one of the most claustrophobic courses on Tour, failing to even break par in a round, but he’s a different, more well-rounded player now. He shot rounds of 69-69-72-67 to tie for 16th.

He’s had significantly more success at the other RBC event on the schedule – the Canadian Open, the week after The Open, where he has a pair of runners-up and another top-10 in five starts.



8. With Lydia Ko’s game on the fritz, it looks like Brooke Henderson could be the young star to rule the game in 2018. The 20-year-old Canadian won for the sixth time on the LPGA, battling strong winds and winning by four shots at the Lotte Championship. She already has three other top-10s this season.

Henderson is a joy to watch, the rare female talent who is unafraid to grip-and-rip the driver and to attack flags even when she’s clinging to a narrow lead. It’s a stark contrast to Ko, who captured 14 tour titles with steady, methodical, consistent, almost boring play.

Henderson is just two wins shy of tying Sandra Post for the most wins by a Canadian player in LPGA history.

9. It took the PGA Tour a while to finally get on Keith Pelley’s level, and the selections will probably be more Darius Rucker than Drake, but tournament officials should be applauded for trying something different next week at the Zurich Classic: walk-up music on the first tee.

With one week left to commit, here are some of the notable groups: Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley, Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan, Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer, Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay, Sergio Garcia-Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tommy Fleetwood-Chris Paisley, Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels, Graeme McDowell-Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar.



10. Those who think the PGA Tour Champions is just a carefree hit-and-giggle must not have watched Saturday’s 36-hole finish.

Forced to complete two rounds in one day because of severe storms expected to hit the area on Sunday, the over-50 set played a marathon Saturday that went even longer, with Steve Flesch, Bernhard Langer and Scott Parel battling it out in a playoff.

Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that it was a 50-year-old, Steve Flesch, who emerged from the pack, taking the Mitsubishi Electric Championship after a 38-hole day. At least they got to use carts at hilly TPC Sugarloaf.

“I know I’ll sleep great,” Flesch said, “but mentally I’m more exhausted than physically.”

He won in only his sixth career senior start, after previously failing to record a top-15 this season.

“You never know if you’re ever going to win again,” said Flesch, who hadn’t won anywhere since 2007. “Honestly, it’s been harder than I anticipated winning on this tour. The guys are so good. That Langer guy is hard to beat.”


Not all missed cuts are the same. Just ask Kelly Kraft.

Fighting to play the weekend at the Heritage, Kraft’s tee shot on the par-3 14th had just begun its descent when it drilled a bird. His ball dropped short of the green, in the water, and led to a double bogey. He missed the cut by one.

“It wouldn’t been in the middle of the green,” he said. “It might have been close. I got screwed.”

At this point, you just hope that the bad break doesn’t cost Kraft down the road, or at least evens out over time. He entered the week at No. 85 in the FedEx Cup standings.

This week's award winners ... 


Stay Hot: Luke List. In 16 starts this season, he now has nine top-25s and a trio of top-5s – a tie for fifth at the CJ Cup, a playoff loss at Honda and now a tie for third at the Heritage, where he finished one shot out of the Kim-Kodaira playoff.  

Running On Fumes: Ian Poulter. Playing his sixth consecutive week, the Englishman crashed back to Earth with a final-round 75 while staked to the overnight lead. After winning just two Tour events in 240 career starts, he was seeking his second title in the past three weeks.

Back to the Drawing Board: Live Under Par. Saying goodbye to “These Guys are Good” after two decades, the PGA Tour rolled out its new advertising campaign, which was supposed to highlight the Tour’s younger, fan-friendly approach. A sampling on Twitter shows just how much it missed the mark, but even more of a forehead-slapper was the fact that, in the UK, to “live under par” means that you feel like total crap. Oops!

Psycho Scorecard of the Week: James Hahn. Not good in golf, but, man, Giancarlo Stanton would love to hit for the cycle right about now:


Not Quite Tiger-Esque: Paul Casey. His Tour-leading streak of 29 consecutive cuts made came to an end at the Heritage. Too bad, because he was only 113 short of catching Tiger’s amazing run.

Leading Amateurs: Hogan Award finalists. The final vote isn’t for another month, but right now Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry, Oregon’s Norman Xiong and Texas’ Doug Ghim should be considered the frontrunners for amateur golf’s most prestigious award.

Place Your Bets: PGA Tour. The Tour said last week that it would support legalizing sports betting, falling in line with other major sports leagues. One thing to watch: Fan behavior is already an issue, and that could be exacerbated if, say, a spectator has 50 benjis on a JT head-to-head victory.

Lunch of (Masters) Champions: Patrick Reed hits Chick-fil-A. 


Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Luke Donald. His form stunk heading into Harbour Town, but rarely has that mattered – since 2009, he was 9-for-9 with five runners-up and a pair of third-place finishes, reason enough for many one-and-doners to pick him. Then he opened with 76, and even though he rebounded with a Friday 67, it still wasn’t enough to make the cut. Sigh.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.