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Monday Scramble: Family, firsts for Landry, Jutanugarn

By Ryan LavnerApril 23, 2018, 12:15 pm

Andrew Landry breaks through, Moriya Jutanugarn completes the sister act, Joaquin Niemann dazzles in his debut and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

In the shadow of the famed Hollywood sign, Moriya Jutanugarn scripted a cinematic moment that left some in the audience in tears.

Playing in her 156th career start, she held off Hall of Famer Inbee Park and Jin Young Ko to capture her first LPGA title at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open.

And that alone is a great story – one of hard work and perseverance. But this was different, with Moriya joining younger sister, Ariya, as just the second siblings to win on tour, following Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam.

No one was more overcome with emotion than Ariya, a seven-time winner, a major champion and a former world No. 1.

Her family had reached its goal. The Thai sisters are winners.


1. After a few close calls over the past few years, Andrew Landry became a PGA Tour winner Sunday with a rock-solid final round of 68 to win the Valero Texas Open.

Landry might be best remembered for his starring role at the 2016 U.S. Open, where the little-known Texan played his way into the final group. He spent last year tearing up the Web.com Tour and then took Jon Rahm into a playoff at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Now, after a two-shot victory over Trey Mullinax and Sean O’Hair, Landry is exempt for The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, Tournament of Champions and 2019 Masters.

2. Your trusty correspondent wrote more about Landry at Oakmont, but it’s worth retelling.

The 30-year-old grew up in Groves, Texas, playing on a nine-hole track called The Pea Patch, the former home to another PGA Tour player, Chris Stroud. Friends and family described it as a goat track with a bar. A country-club upbringing, it was not. 

More on that backstory here.

Landry said this on Sunday night: “It just shows that it doesn’t really matter where you come from. It just matters the determination and hard work you have – anything you put your mind to, you can accomplish.”

3. No one played better over the weekend than Mullinax, the former Alabama product who fired a course-record 62 on Saturday to put himself in the mix.

It was an important final round for Mullinax, who finished 137th on the 2016-17 points list and was playing this season on conditional status. He looked decent in his limited appearances, but he hadn’t played since a tie for eighth in Tampa.

Mullinax made six birdies in the final round, but he made two costly errors. The first came on the par-5 14th, where after a massive drive, he flared his approach into the greenside bunker. It plugged near the lip, and he could only make par. Then came his miscue on the 17th. One behind with two to play, he was just left of the green with his tee shot on the drivable 17th. Then he quit on his pitch shot and flubbed it into the bunker, leading to a stunning bogey and gifting Landry a two-shot lead heading into the finishing par 5.

“This experience that I’m gaining right now is just going to help me down the road,” Mullinax said.



4. How about that debut for Joaquin Niemann?

The former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, making his pro debut, shot a pair of weekend 67s to surge all the way into sixth place at the Texas Open.

He earned $223,200 and 100 non-member FedExCup points, putting him in line to at least qualify for the season-ending Web.com Tour Finals, where he’d have a chance to secure one of 25 PGA Tour cards. He needs 269 points to earn special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the year (otherwise he’s limited to seven).

This kid is obviously a stick – he won nine times worldwide in 2017, including four pro events in Chile – and now he’ll have a few more opportunities to wrap up his card for next season. By virtue of his top-10, he gets into next week’s Wells Fargo Championship (he now can save the sponsor invite), the Byron Nelson and Memorial.

“I feel like a veteran right now; I feel like a Tour player now,” he said. “I know I can beat these guys, and I’m just going to wait for my week and try to win.”



5. Alexander Levy boosted his chances of playing in a home Ryder Cup with his victory Sunday at the Trophee Hassan II.

Levy needed only a final-round 70 to overtake Alvaro Quiros and win for the fifth time on the European Tour. It was his fourth top-7 in six starts this year.

With the victory, he moved up to No. 9 in the European Points and 15th on the World Points List.

“It’s a good win, but I need to go back to work because we can see we have a lot of good players in Europe,” he said, “so it will be tough to make it.”

So, yes, he might qualify for the team on his own merit. If not, the fun character would be a no-brainer choice for captain Thomas Bjorn – a top-50 player teeing it up in his home country.



6. Brooks Koepka returns to competition after a 15-week layoff to recover from a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Koepka said he doesn’t know how he injured his wrist, but it began to bother him the week after he blew away the field at the Dunlop Phoenix in November. He finished last in his next two starts, then shut it down for more than three months. He had originally targeted a return at the Masters, but he wasn’t ready.

To help him recover, Koepka had bone marrow from his hip injected into his wrist and endured a round of platlet-rich plasma injections, according to the Associated Press. Koepka only began hitting balls two weeks ago, and his swing coach, Claude Harmon III, posted this video over the weekend:


All of that time away didn’t really affect his world ranking – he’s still ninth in the world – or his Ryder Cup position, as the reigning U.S. Open champ is still seventh in points.  

7. Koepka’s partner this week at the Zurich is (somewhat randomly) Marc Turnesa, a 40-year-old who won on Tour, in Las Vegas, a decade ago. Because Koepka committed so late – a few hours before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline – his options for a partner were limited.

Turnesa also plays at Medalist in South Florida. Playing mostly on the Web.com Tour, he’s missed 13 of his past 17 worldwide cuts, including eight in a row.

The Zurich field is filled out by two tiers of players – Player A is by eligibility ranking, while B has to have some Tour status or it counts as a sponsor exemption.



8. Koepka is one of 10 top-14 players who will tee it up this week at the Zurich. It’s Year 2 of the two-man team format, with alternate shot on Thursday and Saturday and best ball on Friday and Sunday.

Some of the notables in the field include Jordan Spieth (partnering with Ryan Palmer), Justin Thomas (Bud Cauley) Jason Day (Ryan Ruffels), Justin Rose (Henrik Stenson) and newly crowned Masters champion Patrick Reed (Patrick Cantlay), who is making his first start since Augusta.

Having covered the Zurich for the past couple of years, it’s been fascinating to watch the revitalization of this tournament. This year’s field is – by far – the strongest it’s ever been. That so many great players are willing to play an event without world-ranking points and reduced FedExCup points suggests that they’re tired of the 72-hole, stroke-play monotony.

No, they don’t want every week to feature a tricked-up format, but there are plenty of other opportunities throughout the year for a player to sharpen his scoring skills. Zurich week becomes all about competition and camaraderie.

9. The only thing that could make a good week even better is a venue change.

Move the event to City Park – the community-based program modeled after East Lake in Atlanta – and put TPC Louisiana in the rearview mirror. It’s a bland course that’s too far away from all of the action downtown.



10. Asked this week by CNN’s Shane O’Donoghue whether he thinks he’ll be able to win the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam, Rory McIlroy said – yep, you guessed it! – “it’ll happen.”

“I play that golf course well enough. I’ve had five top 10s in a row. I’ve given himself the chance; it didn’t quite work out but the more I keep putting myself in those positions, sooner or later, it’s going to happen for me.”

Speaking for the first time since he played in the final group at Augusta, closed with 74 and tied for fifth, McIlroy said that he was “quite nervous” on the first tee and felt “a little bit of pressure there, for some reason.”

There was a reason for that, of course – he was vying for the career Grand Slam – and his attempts on the eve of the final round to deflect attention were feeble at best. It was McIlroy, not the first-timer Reed, who played like he had everything to lose on Sunday.

In this clip, Washington State football coach Mike Leach explains why he doesn't like golf.

As is most things with Leach, it's entertaining, but there's a short-and-sweet rebuttal here: Hey, at least golf doesn't turn your brain to mush!


This week's award winners ... 


Back On Top: Inbee Park. With a tie for second in LA, she supplanted Shanshan Feng as the world No. 1, marking her first return to the top since October 2015.

Thanks, Mother Nature!: Eric Axley. Holding on to a three-shot lead, the 44-year-old was declared the winner of the inaugural North Mississippi Classic after the final round was canceled because of inclement weather. It was his first victory on the Web since … 2005.

Keep An Eye Out For: Sean O'Hair and Jimmy Walker. After shooting a combined 29 under par at the Valero (good for a T-2 and fourth-place finish, respectively), they’re teaming up for the team event at Zurich.

Must Not Be Sleeping Well: Sergio Garcia. He has missed his first two cuts since becoming a father (his first back-to-back trunk-slammer in the U.S. since 2003), though at least he didn't make a 13 at TPC San Antonio. He did, however, have a temper tanrum:


Under-The-Radar Stud Alert: Valentina Giraldo. The junior at Jacksonville State earned medalist honors at the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. It’s her sixth title in 10 starts this season, which is a school and conference record.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charley Hoffman. The tournament’s all-time money leader added to his total – barely. He didn’t even sniff a round in the 60s and tied for 64th, a waste of a one-and-done pick. Sigh. 

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

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PGA Tour 'career mode' to be featured in video game

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 6:02 pm

Updated 4:15 p.m.

The PGA Tour announced on Monday a licensing agreement with developer HB Studios that will see Tour branding featured in HB's upcoming "The Golf Club 2019" video game.

Per a release, the game's career mode will take players “on an authentic journey through Q-School, the Web.com Tour and a 32-tournament PGA Tour season, including the FedExCup Playoffs, to become the FedExCup champion."

The initial launch will also feature "six precise replicas" of TPC courses played each year on Tour: TPC Summerlin (home of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ The Players Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic and future home of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“We are so excited for the launch of 'The Golf Club 2019' featuring the PGA Tour that highlights some of our best tournaments,” said Len Brown, PGA Tour chief legal officer and executive vice president of licensing. “This will allow our fans to take the same path to the PGA Tour by earning their card through the Web.com Tour. Additionally, this will give gamers the opportunity to play under the same tournament conditions that our players face week in and week out. We are thrilled with this partnership.”

The agreement is a large step forward for a franchise which has been focused on virtual architecture, allowing users to design, play and share courses with other members of the TGC community. To date, users have designed more than 170,000 layouts. 

“We are absolutely ecstatic and proud to be an official licensee of the PGA Tour, one of the most prestigious sports organizations in the world,” said Alan Bunker, CEO of HB Studios. “This further validates that HB Studios has the No. 1 golf video game on console and PC platforms. With the inclusion of PGA Tour content and the support of this fantastic organization, it will elevate our game even higher and provide our users with an even more authentic video game golfing experience.”

The PGA Tour previously licensed its branding and TPC courses to well-known developer Electronic Arts. The EA game enjoyed its greatest popularity from 1999-2013 under the name "Tiger Woods PGA Tour". Following the 2013 edition, EA's partnership with Woods and a licensing agreement with Augusta National Golf Club reached an end.

The studio developed one edition of the game for current-generation consoles in 2015 under the name "Rory McIlroy PGA Tour". The title received poor initial reviews when it launched with far fewer features than previous incarnations of the game, although EA continued to add downloadable content for up to a year. The game was recently pulled from all digital storefronts when its EA's license to use Tour branding expired.

Speaking with GolfChannel.com on Monday, Matt Iofredo, the senior director of licensing for the Tour, referred to the circuit's previous arragement with EA as a "long-term successful partnership" and said that the two sides parted amicably.

As for why it was important for the Tour to re-emerge in this space, Iofredo cited the ongoing effort to the grow the game.

"Video games are a great platform for us to reach our fans and potentially new fans," Iofredo said. "The hope is that you start playing the video game and it piques your interest in golf in general and then maybe you want to attend an event, maybe you want to tune in on TV or one of the digital platforms, or maybe you want to go out to a driving range and hit balls and eventually go play."

The deal between HB and the Tour is a multi-year agreement aimed at building and expanding the franchise over potentially multiple editions.

While the PGA Tour controls the rights to TPC courses - and may well add more to the game - HB would have come to separate agreements with other clubs were it to try to digitally mirror the rest of the PGA Tour season. 

"The Golf Club 2019" edition is the third installment in “The Golf Club” franchise following "The Golf Club" in 2014 and "The Golf Club 2" in 2017. The game is set for an August release on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.