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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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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: