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Monday Scramble: From thrill to the surreal

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 15, 2018, 5:00 pm

Patton Kizzire survives a marathon playoff, the Sony Open features a bit of everything, Rory McIlroy scares his fans, Thomas Bjorn gets a sneak preview and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

A British survey recently found that golf was the most boring sport to watch on TV.

Uh, not last week.

The never-ending playoff at the Sony Open wasn’t must-see action, but it was a fitting end to a week that was sad and surreal, wild and absurd.

Here’s guessing that at year’s end, most won’t remember that Kizzire prevailed at Waialae. But they will recall Jim “Bones” Mackay dusting off his caddie bib, and Kevin Kisner donning an Alabama jersey to pay off a bet, and a false-alarm missile threat, and a caddie who hit his head and now remains in critical condition, and a televised final round with a skeleton crew.

All in a span of four days.


1. Kizzire became the first multiple winner on Tour this season after defeating James Hahn on the sixth playoff hole. It was the longest overtime period on Tour in more than five years.

After needing 61 starts to earn his first victory last fall at Mayakoba, Kizzire now has two wins in his last four starts.

Kizzire is No. 1 in the FedExCup. With 1,213 points, he’s the equivalent of No. 38 in last season’s standings, making him a virtual lock for the season finale. 

2. Both playoff participants were kicking themselves for missed opportunities.

Kizzire missed an 18-footer in regulation that would have won the title outright.

Hahn, whose previous two Tour titles came in playoffs, had a 6-footer for birdie on the fifth playoff hole. It never had a chance, sliding by on the right side. He also missed putts inside 20 feet on the 72nd hole, first, third and sixth playoff holes.

Hahn began the final round seven shots off the lead but shot 62.

“I played good enough to win,” he said, “but I didn’t.” 

3. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that there were only two guys in the playoff.

Tom Hoge had the overnight lead and appeared in command for much of the final round, but he made a mess of the 16th hole. In between clubs, he yanked his approach shot into the bunker, then couldn’t find the green with his third. He chipped to 12 feet and missed the putt, the double bogey putting him one shot behind. He failed to make his 7-foot birdie on the last to join the playoff.

Hoge hasn’t been able to keep his card his previous three seasons on Tour. “This sets me up a lot better for the rest of the year,” he said, after a career-best third-place showing.  

4. You may have noticed that the final-round broadcast of the Sony was a little different, with a crew in Orlando, not Honolulu, handling the commentary with limited cameras. That’s because the audio and video workers walked out over a labor dispute.

Everyone loses in this unfortunate scenario – especially the fans – but we couldn’t help but chuckle at all of the wannabe TV critics on social media. Golf is, by far, the most difficult sport to cover on television. Being able to piece together limited coverage of the event with a skeleton crew – and only after help from on-course reporter Jerry Foltz, who manned a camera in the 16th tower – was remarkable. 



5. It was another frustrating week on the greens for Jordan Spieth, who preached patience after tying for 18th at the Sony Open.

Spieth, who has been working tirelessly to replicate his setup, posture and freedom from his best putting seasons in 2015-16, said that “it’s just going to take some rounds.”

He never took fewer than 30 putts each round and ranked 58th out of 76 players in strokes gained-putting. He also lost strokes to the field a week ago, ranking 30th out of 34 players. 

His T-18 ended a streak of seven consecutive top-10s, dating to the PGA. 

6. Justin Thomas didn’t defend his Sony title, but he felt as though he could have.

In tying for 14th, JT said his distance control was “atrocious.” And that he hit too many poor wedge shots and putts. Still … “I easily, easily could have won this golf tournament by a pretty good amount of strokes.”

7. That would have been an impressive feat with a temporary caddie.

Thomas teamed up with Mackay for the week at Waialae. Mackay, who spent 25 years on the bag with left-hander Phil Mickelson, joked that his biggest issues were cleaning the correct side of the clubs and standing on the right side of his boss.

It should only be a one-off, with Thomas set to work with putting coach Matt Killen at his next start at the Phoenix Open. He’s hoping that his regular looper, Jimmy Johnson, who is out for at least a month because of a foot injury, should be healthy enough to return after that.  



8. After four months away, Rory McIlroy announced his return to professional golf with a stunning bit of news: He revealed to the Daily Telegraph that he has a heart irregularity, which was caused by a thickening of his left ventricle following a viral infection 18 months ago.

Not to fear, he later clarified: He will need a cardiogram every six months and an MRI each year. “It’s really not that big of a deal and nothing to worry about,” he said.

9. An even bigger takeaway was this quote:

“I needed the reset that I’ve just had. Let’s just say that between now and when I signed off last year, I feel way more optimistic, focused, motivated, purposely. I know exactly what I can do.”

That should be encouraging news, but the time for talk is over. He needs to perform.

If McIlroy doesn’t have a big year, it’s fair to wonder what more it will take. 



10. The captain of last week’s EurAsia Cup, Thomas Bjorn got a preview of what at least part of his European Ryder Cup team will look like come September.

Is he more nervous now?

The heavily favored Europeans trailed after team play before a dominant performance in Sunday singles – they won eight of the first nine matches – to pull out the victory.

Despite a massive talent advantage – Europe had six of the top 20, while Asia had just one of the top 40 – the Europeans trailed by a point after fourballs and foursomes play.

Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton – who are likely to make their Ryder Cup debuts later this year in Paris – went undefeated in this event, while Paul Casey earned two points.

This is the message that everyone in Hawaii received at about 8 a.m. local time Saturday:

Terrifying, right?

It wasn’t reported that the alert was a false alarm for about 10 more minutes, leaving residents and those in Honolulu for the Sony Open to wonder whether they were in imminent danger.

The threat wasn’t real, but sadly the feeling of terror was. Now, more than ever, it feels like something like this actually COULD happen.

Scary.

This week's award winners ... 


Stud of the Week: Brooke Henderson. She finished seventh in the Diamond Resorts Invitational, but she did so while playing the same tees as the men (6,626 yards, in cold, windy, wet conditions) and beating them 22 of them. Love watching her compete. 

Best Wishes: Cory Gilmer. Blayne Barber’s caddie is in critical condition after falling and hitting his head Friday night in Hawaii. 

All In Good Fun: Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner. It was a heartbreaking loss for my Dawgs, but Kisner and Thomas did the right thing by taking their bet to the next level. The PGA champion signed the jersey and will auction off the item for Kisner’s foundation. Perhaps not coincidentally, Kisner bogeyed that hole ... 


Refreshing Perspective: John Peterson. The free spirit, playing this season on a major medical extension, isn’t sweating the small stuff. If he doesn’t earn the $375,165 he needs to keep his card, he’ll likely leave pro golf and get into the real-estate business. “Right now, I’d like to keep playing golf. But if I don’t, it’s great. I’ve got a little farm. I’ve got a little boy. I’m in a good spot.” 

When PDA Is Acceptable: Chris Paisley. A final-round 66 earned the 31-year-old Englishman his first European Tour title. Even better, he had his wife, Keri, on the bag for the first time. 


Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Marc Leishman. He shared the halfway lead at Kapalua and was heading to an entirely different track at Waialae, where he’s been solid, with made cuts in all eight appearances. Well, he made the cut again last week, but he failed to get anything going, finishing in a tie for 47th. Sigh. 

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."