Monday Scramble: Tiger nears return; Bro-hamas!

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2016, 3:00 pm

Charley Hoffman shakes off the Sunday blues, Tiger Woods hurtles toward a return, a few top players skip the Olympics, #SB2K16 changes Golf Snapchat forever and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

It seems Woods is further along in his recovery than originally thought. 

It was just over a month ago that your correspondent saw Woods at his course opening in Houston. He moved gingerly and said repeatedly that he had no idea when he would return to competition. At that point, he appeared likely to sit out the rest of the year, that he would pace himself.


Now, he’s blasting drivers and stinging 2-irons and appearing at a junior clinic to show off all of his hard work. Now, it’d be a surprise if he didn’t tee it up in the next month, which is what Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reported Friday – that "all indications" are Woods will return at next week’s Quail Hollow Championship and The Players the following week. Even confidante Notah Begay III said that Woods was on the “back half” of his rehabilitation and that he'd come back sooner rather than later.   

Only Woods knows his body, of course, but this would be a miraculous recovery from where he was just about six weeks ago. He can’t afford another setback, not after three back surgeries, and this return would seem premature. Again. 

1. Of the 201 qualifiers, Hoffman had a better final-round scoring average than exactly one player on the PGA Tour entering last week's Valero Texas Open.

On eight previous Sundays, he had averaged 74.75 and was a combined 26 over par, with only one under-par round (a meaningless 70 in Phoenix that gave him a tie for 51st). Other than that, he had three rounds of 75 – including last week, when he had a chance to win at the Heritage – as well as an 80 during the wind-swept finale at Torrey Pines. 

“It’s been hard,” Hoffman said of his final-round struggles. “Being in contention every Sunday and not closing the door is not me.”

In fact, in two of his three prior victories, he had closed with a 66 in Mexico and, most memorably, fired a sizzling 62 in Boston. And so Sunday in San Antonio, he steadied himself after a few stumbles – and, yes, it wasn't always pretty, for he missed a good look on 15, sailed his tee shot long and left on 16, chunked a wedge on 17 and hit a shaky sand shot on 18 – but in the end, he birdied three of the last eight holes, including a 9-footer on the last, to shoot 69 and edge Patrick Reed by one.

Now, he's ranked 196th in final-round scoring.

2. By the way, on the celebration scale of Dufner to Tiger, who knew The Hoff would rank closer to the GOAT of fist-pumpers? This was terrific:

3. Just go ahead and pencil Hoffman into the 2017 Texas Open in your one-and-done fantasy league. He now has seven consecutive top-13 finishes at TPC San Antonio, and since 2010 he's 43 under par there – 29 shots better than any other player during that span. 

4. No one has been more consistent this season than Reed – his eight top-10s are tops on Tour – but he’ll remember the Texas Open as the tournament that got away.

No, he never held the lead coming down the stretch, but he made par from the middle of the par-5 14th fairway and then missed a pair of 8-foot birdie putts on 16 and 17. Reed put a lot of pressure on a player who had plenty of Sunday scar tissue, but ultimately he couldn’t nail down his first title of the season.

“I’m still first loser,” he said afterward. “I’m tired of finishing in second and top-five and top-10. I need to close out tournaments and get Ws.” 

5. Three marquee names have dropped out of the Olympics in the past week, causing even more debate about whether (1) golf should even be in the Summer Games, and (2) why world-class athletes are passing on the opportunity to represent their country at the biggest spectacle in sports.

Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen all cited the hectic summer schedule as one of the biggest reasons why they won’t make the trip to Rio – and that’s the shame in all of this, because golf’s biggest decision-makers had seven years (!) to get it right and clearly did not. During the heart of the season, there are four huge tournaments in a seven-week stretch, followed by the Olympics, followed by the FedEx Cup playoffs. It’s madness.

Though the belief here is that the top players are being shortsighted and that all (or at least most) will buy in once the pageantry of the Olympics begins, it’s hard to fault Scott and Oosthuizen for choosing a major over a medal.

They shouldn’t have had to choose in the first place.

6. Last week, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Johnny Miller criticized the threesome who have opted to skip the Olympics, with the Golden Bear saying that it was a “shame for the game of golf.” 

Respected opinions, all of them, but they also don’t have to play this summer. The stars do. 

7. What happened in Baker's Bay definitely didn’t stay there, not with Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas Snapchatting all of their shenanigans from the greatest spring break trip ever* 

(*the greatest one that was documented on Snapchat by professional golfers) 

Sorry, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that we enjoyed watching these clips of golf's frat brothers more than any tournament action this past week, at least until the final half hour Sunday. It was a hoot to see all of these guys acting their age for a change, having fun, enjoying a life with which we are completely unfamiliar. They played golf shirtless and shoeless. They imitated golf announcers. They even found a dog!

That Rory McIlroy chimed in with this tweet made #SB2K16 even more legendary. (McIlroy, by the way, seemed to be enjoying himself, as well.) Thanks for the entertainment, lads.

8. Couldn’t help but chuckle when an email from the PGA Tour popped into the inbox last week, with a headline that read: DECHAMBEAU’S HOT START COULD LEAD TO WEB.COM TOUR FINALS APPEARANCE. 

Here’s guessing that the recently minted pro isn’t thinking about that.

Even with a missed cut last week at the Valero Texas Open – essentially a free start, thanks to his top-10 the previous week in Hilton Head – DeChambeau is already in great shape to earn special temporary status and then make a run at earning his card via the top 125. Running on fumes after a whirlwind few weeks, the 22-year-old was uncharacteristically wayward with his ball-striking, leading to rounds of 74-73 in calm conditions. He’ll take this week off, then head to Charlotte for the Quail Hollow, his second of seven sponsor exemptions this season.  

9. After a red-hot start to the new year, Phil Mickelson has cooled of late, with a second consecutive missed cut coming last week at TPC San Antonio.

The biggest reason? His short game. 

Over his last two starts, Lefty is taking one and a half more putts per round; getting up-and-down 15 percent less; and converting about 20 percent fewer of his sand-save opportunities. 

As a result, his Tour-leading scoring average of 69.3 over his first eight starts has ballooned to 74.8 over his last two appearances.  

10. Ricky Barnes will have to wait a bit longer for his first PGA Tour title. He failed to convert a 54-hole lead in San Antonio, stumbling to a 74 on the final day and finishing in a tie for fourth.

Only 18 active players have more career starts without a victory than Barnes, who is now 0-for-222. 

11. The Lydia-Inbee rivalry that was supposed to dominate the 2016 LPGA season has yet to materialize. 

Ko has done her part, winning twice, but now Park is slated to miss even more time because of a thumb injury. Park, who already missed a month earlier this year because of a back injury, expects to return sometime in late May. 

It’s been a frustrating year – she has only a pair of top-10s in seven starts. 

12. That’s victory No. 2 on the Tour for Wesley Bryan, one half of the famous trick-shot team, and this one came with a cool twist.

It started like this: 

Coleman, who handles the social media for Callaway Golf, made good on his promise, documented the experience on Bryan’s bag (here and here, with a full recap here), and, well, had a front-row seat to the 26-year-old’s four-shot romp in Mexico. (Last month, I wrote about Wesley Bryan here.) 

A follow-up to last week's item ... 

New Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner posted this tweet, mere days after saying "any of my assistant coaches, if they’re golfers, not working for me":

Wow, that's quite an about-face!

Maybe his public relations staff wanted to have a word. Maybe he realized the error of his ways. Or maybe he's just a huge hypocrite. Stay tuned next week.

This week's award winners ... 

Can’t Imagine This Happens Very Often: The Pillers. Martin (PGA Tour) and wife Gerina (LPGA) each had a good chance to win on their respective tour Sunday. Martin staked himself to a two-shot lead before a double bogey on the 13th hole. Gerina moved within a shot of the lead in brutal conditions at Lake Merced before a double on 11. Martin tied for fourth, while Gerina shared third. Good stuff. 

Don’t Publicize Your Mischief, Vol. 1893: Kevin Kisner. After a Vice Sports video made the rounds showing Kisner and a bunch of buddies betting, drinking beer and racing golf carts at Palmetto, he said on Twitter that he’s been suspended from the Aiken, S.C., club, along with the other members who appeared in the video. “Pretty comical,” he tweeted. 

True to his Word: Andrew "Beef" Johnston. Indeed, he got hammered after his first European Tour title.

Big Coup: European Tour. McIlroy announced Monday that he will skip the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in favor of the French Open. Even more fallout from the Olympics and the summer scheduling nightmare. Read more here

Not Coming Wiesy: Michelle Wie. She pulled out of the Swinging Skirts because of neck spasms after going 11 over through 15 holes Sunday. It was her fourth missed cut or withdrawal this year.

This Shot was Hit by a Professional Golfer: Hoffman. Though he didn't reach the fairway with his tee shot, at least give him credit for making par. And, you know, winning.

That’s How You Close: Illinois. Trailing by eight heading into the final round of the Big Ten Championship, the Ilini shot a school-record, 24-under 264, didn't count a 4-under 68, recorded the best score of the day by 19 and rolled to another conference title – by 13!

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Jimmy Walker. Defending champion, home game, great track record, solid scoring average this season … and then rounds of 75-77. Sigh.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”