Monday Scramble: Green with envy

By Ryan LavnerApril 17, 2017, 3:00 pm

Wesley Bryan wins in his home state, Ian Poulter has a make-or-break week, Lydia Ko fires another caddie, the bros hit the Bahamas and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:

Bryan’s life story is a movie waiting to be made – his improbable rise from struggling mini-tour player, to popular trick-shot artist with millions of YouTube hits, to dominant Tour Player of the Year, and now to PGA Tour winner, after his hard-fought victory at the RBC Heritage.

There were no tricks to his win Sunday, closing with a 4-under 67 to erase a four-shot deficit entering the final round.

It’s a life-changing title for the 27-year-old, who now has earned his way into all of the big events, including next year’s Masters – the rarest of home games for the current Augusta, Ga., resident.

Bryan went to the Masters this past year, eating pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches, and following one of his pals, Russell Henley, during the opening round.


“I can call it my home golf course for the next 51 weeks,” he said. 

Just another chapter in his incredible journey. 

1. The circuit is often marketed as the gateway to the PGA Tour, but not often is it such a direct route to the winner’s circle.

In fact, Bryan became just the third reigning Player of the Year to win the following season on Tour.  

The others were Zach Johnson (2004) and Stewart Cink (1997).  

2. Is there a worse spot than the 54-hole leader at Hilton Head?

The last six winners there all have come from behind – by three or more shots, too. It’s the only Tour event to hold that distinction. 

3. Bryan also became the first Tour winner to quote Ron Burgundy in his post-round news conference.

When asked to explain how his life has flipped upside down over the past 15 months, he said: “I don’t know. Will Ferrell said it best: ‘That escalated quickly.’ Honestly, I’ve got no idea. It’s still kind of surreal.” 

4. Sure, Luke Donald needed a good finish, regardless of the tournament. But at some point it has to be frustrating to come so close, so often to winning at Harbour Town.

The Englishman shot 68 in the final round to finish second there for the fifth time. It was his record seventh top-3 overall.

And he's still looking for his first win there.

“I just keep trying,” he said. “Obviously it’s a place I feel comfortable and I like and I’ve had a lot of success. I’ve got to just keep pounding away, and hopefully I’ll get there.” 

5. Ian Poulter was one of the most animated players on the course Sunday, and he had no chance to win. That’s because he was fighting for his card.

Last week at Hilton Head and this week in San Antonio, he needed to earn $144,669 or 117.75 FedEx Cup points to satisfy the requirements of his major medical extension.

He came up about $30,000 shy, which means he’ll need to make the cut – and make up the difference – this week at TPC San Antonio, which is one of the hardest courses on Tour. He tied for 37th in his only appearance there, in 2013.

“I’m a little hot under the collar right now,” he said. “I’m not disappointed I didn’t get the job done today in terms of finishing where I need to finish, but that today could have been a victory and I let it slip.”

Poulter shot 73 and finished five back. 

6. What was it that sent Jason Dufner reeling at the Heritage?

No doubt, his putter was the biggest culprit – no one was worse Sunday, as he lost a whopping 3.59 strokes to the field on the greens, took 34 swipes and sank only 35 feet worth of putts.

Dufner tumbled from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 11th.

Others would argue it was karma. Video surfaced of Dufner, after making bogey on the fifth hole, rudely dropping his putter by the hole that his caddie was forced to scoop up. He got skewered on social media, and he went 5 over for his next 10 holes. Coincidence, we think not. 

7. One of the few things that didn’t go right for Paul Dunne last week at the European Tour’s Trophe Hassan II was the arrival of his luggage. It didn't make it until Saturday night.

That led Dunne to go shopping in Rabat.

“I have to apologize to my sponsors,” he said, “that I’m wearing random clothes which I bought in a shop because I lost my suitcase and it’s being found as we speak. I’ve had none of my own clothes this week; I had to buy them in the shops.”

Dunne, who played college golf at Alabama-Birmingham, rose to fame at the 2015 Open at St. Andrews, where he shared the 54-hole lead, the first amateur in that spot since 1927.

Dunne hadn’t enjoyed much pro success (just two top-10s) until traveling to Morocco. He lost the playoff to Edoardo Molinari, after the Italian birdied 17, made eagle on 18 and then won the title with a par on the first extra hole. It was Molinari's first Euro Tour victory in seven years.

8. The Zurich Classic won’t offer world-ranking points this year, but that hasn’t deterred some of the world’s best from teeing it up in what should be a fun format.

Switching this year to a two-man team competition that will feature both foursomes and fourball matches – the first on Tour since 1981 – has brought together seven of the top 10 players in the world.

The latest to commit was Jordan Spieth, who will partner with fellow Texan and close friend Ryan Palmer. Some of the other teams include: Jason Day-Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley, Bubba Watson-J.B. Holmes, Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger-Thomas Pieters.

The novelty may wear off after a year or two, but it just goes to show how today’s players appreciate outside-the-box thinking, even without world-ranking points on offer. 

9. Cristie Kerr played her last 52 holes without a bogey to overtake leader Su-Yeon Jang and capture the Lotte Championship.

Kerr closed with rounds of 62-66 and broke the tournament record at 20-under 268. It was the 39-year-old’s 19th career LPGA title.

It is the second victory of the year for the Americans (Brittany Lincicome, Pure Silk Bahamas). That matched their output from all of last year.

10. In danger of losing her world No. 1 ranking, Lydia Ko responded by finishing in a tie for second in Hawaii. It was her best finish of the season.

So Yeon Ryu could have overtaken Ko with a victory and if Ko finished fifth or worse.

Though she held on to the top ranking for at least the next two weeks, Ko is in the midst of a 16-event winless drought, the longest of her career.

In 16 starts since the Women’s British, she has only seven top-10s; No. 3 Ariya Jutanugarn, meanwhile, has 14 top-10s in 18 appearances during that span. 

11. And perhaps that was enough to lead Ko to make more changes. After the Lotte, she fired another caddie, this time Gary Matthews, after only nine events. She has developed a rather unflattering reputation ... 

While the #SB2K17 crew reconvened in Baker’s Bay for another week of sun and fun, all your trusty correspondent did last week was drive seven hours home from Augusta, Ga.; head to the doctor for a yearly checkup; complete a few hours of yard work; wait five hours for a plumber; and then clean the entire house before and after Easter brunch.

Yep, these guys win. Again. 

This week's award winners ... 

Still Some Beef: Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington. It was interesting to see how Sergio was depicted – first as the ultimate sportsman after his thrilling playoff victory at Augusta, then as the petulant “sore loser” that Harrington saw a decade earlier. Garcia's transformation has been remarkable – and much-needed. 

Hit It Hard: Ollie Schniederjans. The hatless wonder had another chance to win Sunday, and it appears his go-to shot under pressure is to hit it hard. Really hard. On the last two holes, he smoked a pitching wedge 180 and 184 yards. Unfortunately for him, he needed more club on 17, with his tee shot expiring in the bunker short and leading to a bogey. 

Golf Quote of the Year: Bryan, describing what it felt like once he got to the 17th tee with the lead: “Honestly, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. And I was like, Shoot, I guess this is what nervous feels like.” 

Undecided: Maverick McNealy. The world No. 1 amateur and newly named Hogan Award winner – given to the graduating senior who excels on and off the course – said last week that he is still no closer to making a decision on whether to turn pro or remain an amateur after college. The guess here is that he’ll give the pro ranks a try, if only to see how good he can be, but the next few months will be telling. He'll remain an amateur at least through the Walker Cup in September.

All Good Things …: Bernhard Langer. His second-round 73 Saturday at TPC Sugarloaf snapped his record streak of 36 consecutive rounds of par or better on the PGA Tour Champions. Fittingly, he bounced back the next day with a 65, the best round of the day, to finish second. Because of course he did. 

Best wishes: Bruce Lietzke. The 13-time Tour winner will undergo surgery today to remove a brain tumor. 

Four Weeks Too Late: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1, who withdrew from the Masters after a freak back injury, committed to return at the Wells Fargo in early May. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive victory. 

Good Advice for Next Time: John Peterson. Note to self: Take a week off after a bender. 

No Need To Tell Us About …: Your round at Augusta. Unless it leads to a larger discussion, like this, there is no need for media members to offer a blow-by-blow of their embarrassing 100-plus score the day after the Masters. 

When You Have Your Own Spring Break Getaway: Gary Player. Well done, sir. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Jim Furyk. He owns one of the best records at Harbour Town, and he appeared in good shape after an opening 68. Then he inexplicably sank to a 74 in easy morning conditions to miss the cut by a shot. Sigh. 

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A plan to avoid U.S. Open setup snafus

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2018, 3:39 pm

It happened again.

It was an inexplicable turn of events after a decade and a half of vehement assurances that this U.S. Open would be different. In the months leading up to the 118th championship, USGA CEO Mike Davis explained that this time the technology was better and many contended that the association was better.

In 2004, the last time the U.S. Open traveled to the East End of Long Island things didn’t go well, with Shinnecock Hills’ greens going dark and dusty for a final round Davis called a “double bogey” for the association.

To be fair, last week’s sequel wasn’t that extreme - let’s call it a bogey - but it was no less baffling.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Jason Day said of last week’s U.S. Open. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

There will be those who contend that Day and Co. - Ian Poulter was also a harsh critic - should simply toughen up, that demanding conditions are the price that must be paid if you want to win the U.S. Open. But that ignores the facts and the USGA’s own assessment.

“There were some aspects today where well-executed shots were not rewarded. We missed it with the wind,” Davis said on Saturday. “We don’t want that. The firmness was OK but it was too much with the wind we had. It was probably too tough this afternoon – a tale of two courses.”

The USGA missed it, again.

Perhaps this is the cost of wanting to play a golf course on the razor’s edge, where just a few warm gusts define the line between demanding but fair and over the top. Or maybe this is an issue of continuity.

Every year the R&A holds a championship and nearly every year we spend the days afterward celebrating a champion, not complaining about an unfair course or an incorrect weather forecast.

There are philosophical differences between the USGA and R&A when it comes to golf course setup, with our transatlantic friends wired to accept relatively easier conditions if the wind doesn’t blow. But maybe the R&A gets it right more often than not because each year they deal with a known quantity.

There are currently nine courses (assuming Turnberry returns to the fold some day) in the Open Championship rotation. The R&A will add Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which last hosted the championship in 1951, to that rotation next year, .

Perhaps the R&A has been able to avoid the kind of setup snafus that have plagued the USGA in recent years (let’s not forget the substandard greens at Chambers Bay in 2015 or the last-minute landscaping in ’17 at Erin Hills) because they know, through decades of trial and error, what happens at Royal Troon when the winds gust from the North and what hole locations should never be used on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Similarly, the folks who run the Masters regularly get it right. They get everything right, from course setup to parking regardless of inclement weather or extreme conditions, because they’ve had eight decades to figure it out.

Only the PGA Championship travels like the U.S. Open, but then the PGA of America’s setup philosophy is more in line with that of normal PGA Tour events, with officials regularly erring on the side of the player, not some notion that par must be protected.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the U.S. Open that a more standardized rotation couldn’t cure. If, for example, the USGA were to follow the R&A’s lead and set a dance card of eight to 10 regular stops for the national championship they could create the kind of continuity and institutional knowledge that seems to work so well at the Open Championship.

What if Shinnecock Hills, which is among the best venues for the U.S. Open regardless of the setup miscues of ’04 and ’18, hosted the championship every decade? Officials would have a chance to better understand what works and what doesn’t, from golf course setup to traffic (which was just as bad as some of Saturday’s hole locations).

Pick your regulars, from Pebble Beach to Pinehurst, Winged Foot to Torrey Pines, create a rotation and learn whatever it takes to get it right once and for all.

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Mickelson: 'Not my finest moment ... 'I'm sorry'

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 2:41 pm

Days after his putter swipe ignited a controversy that threatened to overshadow the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson offered an apology.

Mickelson received a two-shot penalty for purposely hitting his ball while it was still in motion on the 13th green during the third round at Shinnecock Hills. In the eyes of the USGA, his actions fell short of a disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules, and the 48-year-old ultimately matched his age with a T-48 finish after returning to play the final round.

Mickelson declined to speak to reporters after a Sunday 66, but Wednesday he sent a note to a select group of media members that included Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte in which the five-time major champ offered some contrition.

“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend,” Mickelson wrote. “I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

Mickelson’s actions drew ire from both media members and his fellow competitors, with members of both groups implying that his actions merited disqualification. His most recent remarks seem to indicate that the decision to run up and stop his ball from tumbling back across the 13th green was more of an impulse than the calculated use of the rule book he described after the third round at Shinnecock.

“It’s certainly not meant (to show disrespect). It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best you can,” Mickelson said Saturday. “In that situation I was just, I was just going back and forth. I’ll gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

Mickelson is not in the field this week at the Travelers Championship and is expected to make his next start in two weeks at The Greenbrier.

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Hubert Green, Hall of Famer, dies at 71

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2018, 2:06 pm

Hubert Green, a World Golf Hall of Famer who won 19 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 U.S. Open and 1985 PGA Championship, died Tuesday from complications following a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He was 71.

A remarkably consistent player, Green used his distinctive swing to finish in the top 25 in a third of the PGA Tour events he entered. He also played on three Ryder Cup teams (1977, 1979, and 1985) and was undefeated in singles play.

A native of Birmingham, Ala., Green graduated from Florida State University in 1968. While at FSU, he won the Cape Coral Intercollegiate tournament by eight strokes and the Miami Invitational, the nation’s largest collegiate tournament, by five strokes. He turned pro in 1969, earned his Tour card in 1970 and was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 1971.

Green's first PGA Tour win was the 1971 Houston Champions International, in which he beat Don January in a playoff. Between 1973 and 1976 he won 10 more times, including a three-week stretch in 1976 when he won at Doral, Jacksonville and Hilton Head.

Green won the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., despite being informed of a death threat against him that had been anonymously telephoned to the course. He received the news after putting out on the 14th hole of the final round. He decided to keep playing, and wound up winning  by one stroke over Lou Graham.

“Hubert Green was in incredible competitor whose tenacity on the course defined his playing career," USGA CEO Mike Davis said in a statement. "His 1977 U.S. Open win under extreme circumstances was the definition of grit and perseverance – the true mark of a champion.  We are saddened to lose him among an elite group within our U.S. Open circle.  We extend our deepest condolences to his family as we celebrate his incredible accomplishments today.”

A seldom-remembered fact about Green: he finished third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in their 1977 "Duel in the Sun" Open Championship at Turnberry. He was 11 strokes behind winner Watson.

Green won his second major championship in 1985, taking the PGA Championship at Cherry Hills. By a margin of two strokes, he denied Lee Trevino's bid to win back-to-back PGAs. It would be Green's last win on the PGA Tour. Afterward, Trevino praised his opponent, saying “He’s a great sand player and probably the best chipper we’ve got. Every time he got into trouble, he chipped it close to the hole.”

“The PGA of America is deeply saddened by the passing of Hubert Green, who epitomized what it is to be a champion within the boundaries of a golf course and then extend that spirit to bravely face all of life’s challenges," Suzy Whaley, PGA vice president, said in a statement. "For more than 40 years, Hubert was a celebrated member of the PGA family. His joy in playing golf spread to giving back to others and setting a standard of what it means to cherish life’s daily blessings. Hubert said that he never judged his career against others. ‘I was just playing golf.’  If we can draw from Hubert Green’s example, we all will have a life well played.”   

Green joined what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions in 1997 and went on to win four times, the first win coming in 1998 in his hometown of Birmingham.

Green was also involved in golf course design, including courses such as TPC Southwind,  Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.; and Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham.

Green was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer in 2003. Treated with chemotherapy and radiation, he continued playing golf. In 2005, he was named the Champions Tour's Comeback Player of the Year. He also received the Ben Hogan Award at the Masters that year. In 2007 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Jack Peter, president of the World Golf Hall of Fame, issued a statement reacting to the deaths of both Green a five-time Open champion Peter Thomson:

“It is with great sadness that we report that two of our beloved Hall of Famers, Peter Thomson and Hubert Green, passed away yesterday. 

"Peter was inducted in 1988, and was a true titan of the game. A five-time winner of the Open Championship, he was a favorite son of Australia, and respected around the world not just for his accomplishments on the course, but for the way he carried himself off the course as well. ... Hubert was inducted here in St. Augustine in 2007, and was a dominant force on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and early '80s. ... We will forever remember both Peter and Hubert within the World Golf Hall of Fame.”

Green is also remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Over the years he participated in hundreds of charity tournaments and community fund-raising events that supported a wide range of causes including childhood cancer, united cerebral palsy, and other illnesses.

Green is survived by his wife, Becky Blair, of Birmingham; three sons, Hubert Myatt Green Jr. of Hurricane, Utah; Patrick Myatt Green; and James Thomas Green (Adrienne) of Panama City, Fla.; sisters Melinda Green Powers and Carolyn Green Satterfield and brother Maurice O. V. Green, all of Birmingham, step-sons Richard O’Brien of New Orleans and Atticus O’Brien of Dallas, Texas, and several grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, and details are pending. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Highlands United Methodist Church Community Ministry or to a charity of your choice.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

Hailed as a hero to some and as golf royalty to others, Peter Thomson, a five-time winner of The Open and the only player in the 20th century to win the championship for three straight years, died Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members, Golf Australia said.

The first Australian to win The Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

The Australian's wins came in 1954, '55, '56, again in 1958 and lastly in 1965 against a field that included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Only Harry Vardon, with six titles between 1896 and 1914, won more.

Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 U.S. Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship.

In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Asked by The Associated Press in 2011 how he'd like to be remembered, Thomson replied: ''A guy who always said what he thought.''

Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb was among the first to tweet her condolences, saying she was ''saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game .... so honored to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter.''

Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Thomson was ''a champion in every sense of the word, both on the course and in life.''

''Many know him as a five-time champion golfer of the year or as a three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team.'' Finchem added. ''But he was also a great friend, father, grandfather and husband. He was golfing royalty, and our sport is a better one because of his presence.''

Former golfer and now broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, called Thomson his ''hero'' - ''Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence and valuable guidance over the years.''

From Britain, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers praised Thomson's plans for the game's future.

''Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf,'' Slumbers said. ''He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open.''

Born in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick on Aug. 23, 1929, Thomson was a promising cricketer. He scored an unbeaten 150 runs for the Carlton club against a men's side as a 15-year-old.

But golf became his passion, and he turned professional in 1947.

He won the national championships of 10 countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times and Australian Open three times. He first played on the PGA Tour in the U.S. in 1953 and 1954, finishing 44th and 25th on the money list, respectively. He won the Texas International in 1956.

Thomson won nine times on the Senior PGA tour in the U.S. in 1985, topping the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship, the same year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Overall, he won 26 European Tour events, 34 times on the Australasian PGA tour and 11 on the seniors tour in the U.S, as well as once in Japan.

In later years, Thomson wrote articles for many publications and daily newspapers, was club professional at Royal Melbourne and designed more than 100 golf courses. In the 2011 Presidents Cup program, Thomson provided an insightful hole-by-hole analysis of the composite course at Royal Melbourne.

Thomson was always reluctant to compare his wins with anyone else's.

''All records are qualified in that they were made at a certain time in history,'' Thomson told golf historian and author Brendan Moloney for a story on his 80th birthday.

''The circumstances change so much, and so do the players' attitudes. In golf, only in the last 30 years or so has there been a professional attitude to playing for money. The professionals in the USA and Britain and anywhere else all had club jobs as a backstop to their income.

''When they did play and make records, you have to understand that they were taking time off from the pro shop,'' he said. ''So the records that were set were pretty remarkable.''

Thomson always had stories to tell, and told them well. With a full head of hair and a lineless face that belied his age, the Australian wasn't afraid to let everyone know his feelings on any subject.

That was true as far back as 1966. As president of the Australian PGA, Thomson was indignant that Arnold Palmer's prize for winning the Australian Open was only $1,600, out of a total purse of $6,000, one of the smallest in golf.

''Golf Stars Play for Peanuts,'' blared the headline of a story he wrote. ''Never before has such a field of top golfers played for what $6,000 is worth today. Canada offers 19 times that. I know 19 other countries who give more.''

But he was always happy on the golf course.

''I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it,'' Thomson said. ''I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.''

Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.