Monday Scramble: Inbee warrants praise, not Slam

By Ryan LavnerAugust 3, 2015, 3:00 pm

Inbee Park moves another step closer to the real career Grand Slam, Troy Merritt proves that every pro is only one tweak away from a breakthrough, Tiger Woods shows us what he's capable of and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble: 

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan once said that he feared making the Evian Championship the fifth major because he “didn’t want to be the guy who messed with tradition.”

Except that's exactly what he's done. 

It's a shame, but in the wake of Inbee Park’s comeback victory at the Women’s British Open, there has been more discussion about Slam semantics than the world No. 1’s brilliance.

Instead of celebrating the fact that Park became only the seventh player in history to win four different majors, the LPGA felt compelled to send out a 247-word statement explaining why it considers this the career Grand Slam. 

No one is buying it.

By definition, a player must win all of the designated majors to accomplish the feat, and so Park is actually one shy.

By adding a fifth major, the LPGA wanted to “create an incremental opportunity for the women’s game” – or, let's face it, pad the tour’s wallets – but now it also wants to change what constitutes a Slam, creating something called a Super Career Grand Slam, which sounds like it costs $6.49 with a free soft drink.

The tour can’t have it both ways. 

There's little doubt that Park will earn that final piece eventually, perhaps as soon as next month in France. But for now confusion reigns.

It’s a mess, and it’s unfortunate, and it’s clear that Whan’s fears have been realized. This is what happens when you mess with tradition.

1. Sunday at Turnberry, Inbee Park overcame a three-shot deficit, went 7 under par in a 10-hole stretch around the turn and leapfrogged mentee Jin Young Ko down the stretch to capture the elusive Open trophy.

That’s now six (!) wins in her last 14 majors. Put another way: While Inbee is winning the biggest titles in golf at a 42 percent clip, her peers haven’t won more than a single major over that span. She’s overwhelming the competition.

2. Quietly, Inbee has now joined Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb with seven career major titles.

The only players with more: Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Annika Sorenstam (10), Babe Zaharias (10) and Betsy Rawls (8). 

A reminder that Park just turned 27 …

3. Here's a list of the youngest players to reach seven majors. Note where Inbee now ranks among the all-time greats: 

  1. Tiger Woods: 26 years, 3 months, 15 days
  2. Mickey Wright: 26 years, 8 months, 1 days
  3. Inbee Park: 27 years, 0 months, 21 days
  4. Jack Nicklaus: 27 years, 4 months, 29 days

4. South Koreans continue to dominate the LPGA circuit. They occupy three of the top-5 spots in the world ranking (and nine of the top 18). They have won 10 of the last 16 majors. They are six of the top 12 earners on the money list. And there are even more talented Koreans in the pipeline, such as Ko (pictured), who was playing in her first major and finished solo second. 

It’s gotten so dire for the Americans that only one U.S. player (37-year-old Cristie Kerr) broke par at the Women’s British Open.  

5. The biggest problem now for Park? “I don’t know what else to go for,” she said.

Here’s a hint: The Evian begins in 38 days. Karrie Webb is the only player to win five different LPGA majors.

6. Troy Merritt added his name to the list of the most surprising winners of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season.

Entering the Quicken Loans, he had missed his last five cuts and was on the FedEx Cup bubble at No. 123. Then he made small tweaks in his full-swing setup (moving his hands slightly forward at address) and putting (squaring his shoulders), shot 61 in the third round and closed out his first PGA Tour title with a Sunday 67. Stout stuff.

No, it doesn’t rate as big of a stunner as James Hahn at Riviera, or Padraig Harrington at Honda, or David Lingmerth at Memorial, but it underscores the point that even the 180th-ranked player in the world is capable of turning around his game – and winning – in a hurry. 

7. Playing against a weak field on a rain-softened course, Tiger Woods got off to a promising start in his first tournament since a major disappointment. But with the pressure ratcheted up on the weekend, he sprayed shots and endured a frustrating round that left him well off the pace, only to salvage the week with a sharp final day that left many optimistic about his next start. 

Sound familiar?

That was the story of Tiger Woods’ Greenbrier Classic, where he tied for 32nd. And now it also is the story of his Quicken Loans National, where his T-18 finish represented his second-best showing of the season. 

Critics will contend that we should know by now not to overestimate the importance of such a performance. After what was statistically his best ball-striking week in years, Woods traveled to Scotland and looked completely lost at St. Andrews. There’s reason to believe a similar market correction is in order at Whistling Straits, the exposed neo-links where Woods will have to rely more heavily on his uncooperative driver. That said ... 

8. I'm slightly more optimistic, because Woods at RTJ at least showed that he’s capable of playing well enough to contend again. It was an encouraging sign, and frankly, there haven’t been many in the past few years.

Woods needed a week like this desperately, especially after his clunker at the Old Course. He’s preached patience and talked like he’s on the verge of a breakthrough, like it’s as simple as ironing out his spin rates and motor patterns, but there was little to show for it. Now he can point to the fact that six of his last eight non-major rounds have been in the 60s. If he hasn't yet turned the corner, he's at least approaching the curve. 

Saturday’s round provided ample evidence that there is still plenty of work to do, that there is a big difference between playing well for 45 holes and an entire tournament. 

Beginning the day in fifth place, in the most significant round of his "comeback," he made only two birdies and scrambled just to shoot 74 – a score that beat only five players in the field. Sure, there might be a few technical issues at work – many analysts have suggested that he is set up for a fade with a draw downswing that produces a wild two-way miss – but there is a mental hurdle to clear, as well. 

Finally, we can agree with Woods: He's close. How close? Not even he can know for sure.

9. Our senior writer Rex Hoggard, citing “numerous sources,” reported last week that a split between Woods and swing consultant Chris Como was imminent.

Woods was asked about the status of his relationship with Como after his first round.

Reporter: Chris Como is not here this week. Can you address that? Are you two still working together?

Woods: Yeah. Is there a problem? 

Reporter: No. 

Woods: OK. 

About 12 hours later, Como was in Gainesville, Va., and on the range with Woods as he warmed up for his second round, what could be seen as a blatant attempt to silence the rampant rumors.

As noted by Fox Sports’ Robert Lusetich, the exchange brought to mind a similar line of questioning Woods faced at the 2010 Players, when rumors swirled that he and coach Hank Haney had split.

Reporter: I’m just wondering if you could say what your status is with Hank.

Woods: I’m still working with him. 

That was not true, of course. About a week later, Haney announced on his website that he had resigned as Woods’ coach.

Are Woods and Como still working together? Or is it possible that Woods is keeping Como around through the PGA, just so he can avoid the breakup questions before what figures to be a two-month break? We should have more clarity this fall.

10. At No. 185 in the FedEx Cup points list, Woods needs either a big week at the PGA or another tournament start to try and make the playoffs. The latter never seemed like a reasonable option, because he has never played the Wyndham Championship.

Yet Woods himself brought up the possibility of adding Greensboro in an 11th-hour bid to make the postseason. 

“Hopefully I can play next week at Bridgestone if everything goes well this week,” he said, “and then we’ll see about Wyndham after that and hopefully I’ll be in the playoffs and we’ll move from there.” 

If he doesn’t add the Wyndham – keep in mind he hasn’t played 72 holes in back-to-back weeks since fall 2013 – then it looks like Woods will need to finish first or second at Whistling Straits to make the playoffs.

11. Woods is far from the only big name in need of a strong finishing kick. Here are five other notables who are currently outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points with three regular-season events to go: 

  • No. 127 Luke Donald. After a ragged start to the season, the former world No. 1 has been better of late, with his run of three consecutive top-12s worldwide ending in Canada.   
  • No. 138 Charl Schwartzel. The former Masters champion has had only two bright spots this season: a top-10 at the Match Play and a seventh-place showing at the U.S. Open.
  • No. 159 Graeme McDowell. Struggling at times with his motivation, G-Mac has only one top-30 finish worldwide since the Desert Swing at the start of the year.   
  • No. 165 Martin Kaymer. After missed cuts in the first two majors of the year, he tied for 12th in his most recent start at St. Andrews.
  • No. 176 Ernie Els. The Big Easy has fallen on hard times – he has a career-high eight missed cuts this season. 

12. With a back-nine 39 at RTJ, Bill Haas squandered a golden opportunity to win his second event of the season and, secondarily, accrue some much-needed Presidents Cup points. Even with the ugly finish that sent Haas from a share of first to joint fourth, he still moved from No. 16 to No. 13 on the points list. 

Why is that important? The top 10 players through the Deutsche Bank automatically qualify for the U.S. team. Obviously, Haas wants to play for his father/captain, Jay, and qualifying on his own would help avoid any cries of nepotism if he were chosen as a pick.  

13. Rickie Fowler had two pro titles in his first five full seasons. He was a few shots away Sunday from earning his third W in the past 84 days. Floodgates, people. 

14. Justin Thomas has separated himself from a strong pack of contenders for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Though he’s often unfairly labeled as just “Jordan Spieth’s good friend,” the 22-year-old has made a splash in his first year on the big tour, racking up seven top-10 finishes, including a T-4 at the Quicken Loans. Only Spieth (12), Zach Johnson (8), Hideki Matsuyama (8) and Brandt Snedeker (8) have more top 10s this season.  

By far the most bizarre story of the week involved Billy Hurley and his father, Willard. 

On Tuesday, Hurley entered the press center at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and made an emotional plea to the media in an attempt to locate his father, who had been missing since July 19. Three days later, while Billy was grinding to make the cut in Virginia, Willard was found in Texas. He told police that he was “fine physically”, was “simply traveling,” and offered no reason for the sudden departure that led his son to make an appeal to the public to help find his dad. 

Even though Willard was found the previous day, the family had not yet heard from Willard as of Saturday.   

"At this point," a police spokesman said, "there’s nothing else we can do."

You know you're from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when ... you eat corn on the cob out of the claret jug. 

Some fans didn't particularly care for this gesture. 

@BilltheBrit1 called it “crass.” @AussieDutchman said that Zach was a “redneck” who was “disrespecting” all of the names on the trophy. @SteveSampson said that it was “as classy as your victory speech. Not very.” Um, sorry, but how is this any worse than drinking that awful Jagermeister out of the jug? 

Heckuva way to close out a win by Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who slashed out of the hay on the 18th hole and nestled his approach to within a few feet to set up the winning birdie in his championship match against Robert Karlsson in the Paul Lawrie Match Play. It is his third career Euro Tour title. 

• Whistling Straits is a tough walk even from the middle of the fairway, so it seems unlikely that Rory McIlroy, recovering from a ruptured ankle ligament, will be able to tee it up next week at the PGA. Still, we should know definitively by the end of the week. He won't let the will-he-or-won't-he drama drag into tournament week. 

The gold star of the week goes to Lizette Salas, who handled a media firestorm at Turnberry with grace and professionalism. Donald Trump hijacked the first round of the Women’s British by helicoptering into town, and Salas, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, found herself in the middle of the political controversy after playing her opening round. 

She took the high road: “Everyone has a right to say what they feel. That’s what is great about living in the United States. I’m happy to be the child of Mexican immigrants, and I’m proud of my heritage.”

• After making an ace in the first round, Rickie bought some cold beverages for the ink-stained wretches in the media tent. And not just any cold beverages, but Bud Light and Coors Light. Cheap, watery beer – he knows the way to sportswriters’ hearts!

Another start brought more injury concerns for one of the LPGA’s most snakebitten players. Michelle Wie, who began the week in a protective boot, withdrew during the second round of the Women’s British when she slipped and aggravated a left ankle injury. An achy hip, knee, ankle, foot – all in a few months’ time. 

To answer your first question: I like the current setup. Every major has its own appeal: The Masters is the most exclusive event in golf; the U.S. Open the most democratic; the Open the most worldly; and the PGA the strongest. The Masters can invite past champions because the field is so limited; it hasn’t had more than 100 players since 1966. 

The topic of exemptions for past WGC winners is an interesting one, especially since it doesn’t seem right that Tiger Woods, an eight-time Bridgestone winner, isn’t in the field this week at Firestone. Inviting past champions of every WGC event gets tricky, though. It’d be fine at events like the Bridgestone, which has the wiggle room with less than 80 qualifiers, but what to do at the 64-man Match Play? Invite past champions, and all of a sudden the field is not only weaker, but it also keeps out deserving players. That wouldn’t fly. Here's a compromise: Since a player already receives a three-year Tour exemption for a WGC win, give him a spot in every non-Match Play WGC for three years, too. 

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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.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1