Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

Getty Images

S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Hataoka shot 69.

Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

Getty Images

Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



DEVON BLING

In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

“It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

“Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



VIKTOR HOVLAND

Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

“That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

“I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



COLE HAMMER

The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

They all seem to be dropping recently.

The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

“I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



ISAIAH SALINDA

After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

“He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

Getty Images

Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list


“I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

I'll get to rest.”

Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.