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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. 

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.

''I can't say, 'Oh, it won't bother me.' But to me, it's fun,'' Smith said after shooting a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

''To see my name on the board out there, it's not like I'm blind to the leaderboard, that was cool,'' said Smith, who is playing in his fourth Senior PGA and third at Harbor Shores - where he has made the 36-hole cut the previous two times.

''All my members are taking pictures and I know at home my members are pulling up that screen and like I tell them, going to the middle and looking down. So it probably took them a while to find my name today."

Petrovic, who was among the leaders in the Regions Tradition last week before a poor final round, said it was a little bit of a surprise when he heard Smith was at 7 under through 17 holes.

''There was a little bit of buzz, we were talking about it,'' he said. ''I heard somebody say 7 under and I said 'who is it? And we looked up, but we didn't know who the player was. In a tournament like this, you know how it is, there's always one guy, one smart-alec that shoots 7, 8 under in the first round.''

Smith, who birdied five consecutive holes starting at the seventh, played college golf at UCLA and knocked around the mini tours and South Africa for several years without ever gaining his tour card. He was college teammates with some of the players in the field, including Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, but said he no longer seeks the tour life.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


''It's just not me anymore,'' he said. ''So that's why maybe I do have an advantage this week because it's just fun to me. It's like my wife said - just enjoy the ride.''

Petrovic had seven birdies in his round while McCarron and Lonard played bogey-free rounds. Short holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par 4 12th and made eagle on the par 5 ninth hole, his last hole of the day.

McCarron is the only one of the six leaders with a major on his resume. He won the Senior Players Championship last year, and played The Players Championship recently.

''It was a lot of fun being on that stage, of course being at The Players with the best players in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world,'' he said. ''I think the preparation there and just being on that stage helped me going into last week in Alabama, and certainly this week.''

The top two money winners on the PGA Tour Champions are not in Benton Harbor. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

Paul Goydos, a five-time senior winner including the 2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Chris Williams of South Africa shot 67. Joe Durant, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Jerry Pate and Fred Funk were among 15 players at 68.

Colin Montgomerie, who won the first of consecutive Senior PGA titles here in 2014, shot 69, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off a win last week in the first major of the year at the Regions Tradition, opened with a 70.