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Monday Scramble: Drowning out - or in - the noise

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 5, 2018, 4:00 pm

Gary Woodland prevails, Rickie Fowler falters, the party at 16 rages on, Juli Inkster signs on for another Solheim Cup and more in this week’s Super edition of Monday Scramble:

During a final round in which some of the game’s biggest names were supposed to square off, the only players left standing were Gary Woodland and Chez Reavie.

It’s a prime example of the remarkable depth of talent on Tour – and how difficult it is to win.

Both Woodland and Reavie have been on the fringes of contention all season, and they took advantage when the bigger-name players – the ones with more pressure to perform, with more to lose – faltered on the final day.

It wasn’t the star-studded finish everyone expected, but Woodland’s Sunday 64 was the best of the day, and he was rewarded for his stellar play in the spotlight. 

1. Gary Woodland called 2017 the most difficult year of his career. Last spring, his wife, Gabby, lost one of their twins mid-pregnancy. It affected him the rest of the year.

He was eager for a fresh slate in 2018, and it showed, with three consecutive top-12 finishes.

Swing coach Butch Harmon sent Woodland a text message at the start of the week: Forget about everything else. Just put four rounds together.

Whether it put Woodland’s mind at ease, he doesn’t know. But he just notched his first victory since 2013 – and is the new leader in the clubhouse for feel-good story of the year.

2. It was a heartbreaking finish for Chez Reavie, at a tournament he calls his “fifth major.”

Reavie grew up in Mesa, was a standard bearer at the event as a kid and finally, after years of frustration there, put himself in position to win.

He buried a must-make 21-footer on the final hole of regulation, but he hit a poot approach shot on the first playoff hole, coming up short and left of the green. He misplayed his chip shot and missed the 11-footer for par.

Just like that, it was over. It was just his fifth bogey of the week. 

3. Another year, another close call in Phoenix for Rickie Fowler. It was his third straight top-11 finish there.

This year was perhaps the biggest surprise.

After surviving what was thought to be his worst round of the week to take the 54-hole lead, Fowler couldn’t get a putt to drop on the back nine and finished with three bogeys in his last four holes. That added up to a 2-over 73.

There are a lot of factors involved … but Fowler is now 1-for-6 with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. His all-around game is so solid that it’s easy to envision him winning a major (and probably soon), but his inability to close out tournaments from the lead position is becoming a concern. 

4. This clip generated a lot of buzz on social media Sunday:

It wasn’t Jon Rahm’s first outburst, and it certainly won’t be his last. Here’s what he told your trusty correspondent last year about his anger issues: “Every time I try to keep it to myself, just imagine a Coke bottle. If you shake it once, then it comes down. But once you open it, it’s a complete mess, and that’s what happens if I try to keep it down. … Sometimes I need to get mad.”

And so he does. Depending on your perspective, he’s either passionate or wildly immature.

The belief here? It’s hard to argue with Rahm’s success. And he’s 23. If that’s the way he feels like he can perform best, then let him have his outbursts. He'll grow out of it. For now, it affects only himself, not his playing partners.

5. The party vibe at TPC Scottsdale always brings out the get-off-my-lawn crowd, but this year the opponents seemed larger and more vocal.

Their main beef, best we can tell, is that the scene isn’t “good for golf” and that the sport doesn’t need to showcase boorish fans who have little interest in the actual sport, who just want to drink and yell ridiculous things when players are on the tee.

Let’s be clear: The Waste Management Phoenix Open is not helping grow the game. No one in the stands at 16 is watching the action and thinking to themselves, in between sips, Boy, I need to pick up this sport, because this is really cool.

The Phoenix Open is a party, first and foremost, and a golf tournament just so happens to be played around it.

It may not be a good look for the sport, but it’s undoubtedly good for the tournament, which attracted a record 719,179 fans for the week and generated tons of money for charity, and it’s probably even good for the image of the Tour, which has a reputation for being a bunch of stodgy, old country-club guys.

It’s not a model for success, not a preview of what professional golf will soon become. It’s a fun one-off, nothing more.

6. We couldn’t help but chuckle, however, when a few players complained about the abusive heckling on the 16th.

You receive worldwide notoriety, put 20,000 rowdy fans in close proximity, bake them in 85-degree temperatures, allow them to chug Coors Light and then expect them to keep their jeers light-hearted and respectful?

Come on now.

They can hire more undercover cops to throw out the most egregious offenders, but this is the monster they created. It will only get rowdier.

7. Keep in mind: Players don’t have to subject themselves to this. They’re there because they either like the course or enjoy the vibe, probably both.

Only a handful of Tour types have sponsor-related obligations there – Bubba Watson in 2016: "I’m not going to PC it. I’m here because of my sponsors" – and that’s why there is a 44-event schedule. These independent contractors can pick and choose where they want to play.

Think it’s a distraction? Tired of getting heckled? Good news! There are plenty of other options.

And that’s why it’ll be interesting to see whether Jordan Spieth returns to the desert. Two knuckleheads got him – on his downswing in the first round, and while putting on his final hole to try and make cut in the second round. He didn’t speak to reporters after missing the cut, so it’s unclear how much those two incidents affected him.

8. One quick thing: Ian Poulter is no stranger to fan abuse, or to shanks, but he should be applauded for his reaction to what happened on the 16th hole Friday.

Fortunately for Poulter, his shank came toward the end of the day, when the crowd was already starting to leave, and not at prime party time, 4 p.m. local. 

9. Can someone please explain why this event isn’t on a Wednesday-Saturday schedule? Because it makes too much sense?

Sunday is such a letdown, with “only” 64,273 fans pouring through the gates. That’s about 150,000 (!) fewer fans than Saturday. There’s no energy in the final round, with everyone seemingly more concerned about leaving early to get to their Super Bowl party.

The tournament should end on Saturday, with the biggest crowds, and so it doesn’t bump up against the Super Bowl, as it has for the past few years.

It’s an easy commute from the previous week’s event in San Diego, so the players shouldn’t mind the earlier start. For those concerned about attendance, consider there were more fans Wednesday (83,034) than Sunday, and the money made during the pro-am can be made up with some kind of charity event Sunday morning.

Stop the madness!

10. Spieth missed his first cut in 16 starts after another uncharacteristic performance on the greens.

In eight measured rounds prior to the Phoenix Open, Spieth was 193rd on Tour in strokes gained-putting. It only got worse on the perfect greens at TPC Scottsdale, where Spieth looked visibly uncomfortable over the ball and missed a whopping nine times inside 10 feet. If he converts those putts, like he usually does (and like Fowler did over the first two rounds), then he would have been tied for the lead. Instead, he was leaving early.  

Spieth didn’t speak to reporters afterward, but he explained to Tom Lehman (on-site to work as an analyst Golf Central Pre-Game) that he’s thinking too much about the technical aspects of his stroke instead of speed and line. Seven of his 10 rounds this year have been negative strokes gained-putting, and the bumpy greens at this week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will pose even more of a challenge for a player who is clearly searching for consistency and confidence. 

11. We might go all year before we see another round as wild as Justin Thomas’ Saturday in Phoenix.

Six straight birdies to start. A bogey-triple-double stretch late on the back nine. An even-par 71, when it was all added up.

“Shocked. I’m speechless,” he said. “That pretty much sums it up.”

Per Golf Channel research, Thomas’ round was the first in 197 Tour rounds at TPC Scottsdale that featured eight birdies but did not finish under par. That’s hard to do. 

12. The U.S. Solheim Cup team seems committed to Inkster until she no longer wants the job.

That could be a while, because the Hall of Famer, as energetic as ever, is 2-0 as the leader of Team USA and will be a big favorite when her team heads to Gleneagles in 2019.

Her impact on the Americans has been immense, a complete and much-needed culture change, as they’re finally more interested in winning than face paint, chants and hair ribbons. That’s all Inkster.

(Read colleague Randall Mell on this, and what more she can do.)

Other women deserve the chance to captain the U.S. Solheim Cup team, whether it’s Pat Hurst or Dottie Pepper. But this job should be Inkster’s as long as she wants it. 

Well, it's good to know that at least there are limits to the debauchery at the 16th hole. This streaker was eventually arrested.

This week's award winners ... 

Big Points in Scrabble, Even Better Golfer: Shubhankar Sharma. The 21-year-old Indian prodigy shot a flawless 62 to steal the Maybank Championship, his second win in his past five starts. A lot of doors will soon open for Sharma, who just clinched his spot in the WGC-Mexico. 

Stop Using the “Misquoted” Defense: Suzann Pettersen. Her comments that President Donald Trump “cheats like hell” at golf unsurprisingly went viral, and, unsurprisingly, she defended herself by saying that the reporter took the exchange out of context and that it was “fake news” … except the reporter came out and said, unsurprisingly, that he had recorded the conversation (duh, it’s 2018!) and had proof that’s what she said and what she meant. Athletes: Just stop using that defense. It never, ever works, and it makes you look ridiculous.   

Good Sport: Henrik Stenson. Seriously, Big Stense is just the best. 

Work On Your Trophy Presentations Now: Mark Newell. A key figure in the rules modernization, Newell is the next president of the USGA, succeeding Diana Murphy.

Someone Is Asking For It: PGA Tour employee. An unnamed Tour employee decorated commissioner and rabid Patriots fan Jay Monahan’s car with Eagles balloons. Do it again Monday, and that person is definitely fired.

More of the Same: College golf. The best men’s team (Oklahoma State) and the best men’s player (USC’s Justin Suh) opened up their spring seasons with victories at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii. 

How Did That Not Drop?: Robert Garrigus. Giving it a rip on the drivable par-4 17th, Garrigus’ ball climbed up onto the green, clanked off the flagstick and somehow didn’t drop for an ace. It would have been just the second hole-in-one on a par 4 in Tour history. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Hideki Matsuyama. This one hurts. After an opening 69, the two-time defending champion in Phoenix started receiving treatment on his left shoulder. He decided he couldn’t go, citing a wrist injury, and in the process he torpedoed each of the one-and-done leagues in which he was undoubtedly picked. Sigh.  

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''