Monday Scramble: Wild, crazy times in the golf world

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 26, 2015, 4:20 pm

One of the biggest events of the year is going down this week in Phoenix – and yeah, the Super Bowl is in town, too. Regardless of who wins in the desert, it promises to be the Greatest Show on Turf. We’ll get to that madhouse, plus more from Humana, Dustin Johnson’s imminent return and Robert Allenby’s self-inflicted mess in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble: 

Every win should be treasured.

Within minutes of Branden Grace capturing his eighth career title (by the age of 26), the Twittersphere blew up: Yeah, but what has he done in the States? The answer: Not much, at least not yet, but that doesn’t diminish his accomplishment. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the dominant success of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, because in the first month of the new year we’ve already watched proud champions Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Martin Kaymer (Abu Dhabi) and Jimmy Walker (Kapalua) remember just how difficult it is to win on the global stage.

Which brings us to Bill Haas, a nice player but a guy occasionally criticized for not doing more with his incredible natural ability. No, Haas has never had a top-10 in a major, but here's the thing: He’s grateful to have these six wins, knowing that he plays on the best tour in the world against the best players in what often amounts to a weekly putting contest. “If I could only win one a year for the rest of my career, I would be completely happy,” he said. Sounds like a player who cherishes his time in the winner's circle, and for good reason.

1. Esteemed colleague Rex Hoggard has already wadded through the murkiness that is the Robert Allenby story. When the police release their report, it’s clear that Allenby will most certainly regret this quote in the days following the incident: “It’s such a shame that people are focusing on whether the story is true.”

2. Fortunately, the only robbery we noticed in Hawaii last week was Miguel Angel Jimenez’s continued fleecing of the Champions Tour. He’s now batting .667 on the over-50 circuit, and he’ll be a force for as long as he cares to enter tournaments. We hear those $309,000 paychecks can buy a lot of Rioja.   

3. Speaking of the old-timers ... how good is Bernhard Langer? The ageless wonder made a 10 (!) on the par-5 seventh hole in the first round. He dropped only one more shot the rest of the tournament, recorded 13 birdies and an eagle, and finished joint fifth. Luke, your thoughts, please … 

4. What do Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd and Johnny Miller have in common? None won more than once after turning the big 4-5. Phil Mickelson, coming off his worst year as a pro, turns 45 in June. 

5. That said, Phil tied for 24th in his season debut and showed signs of life after a listless 71 in the opening round. Predictably, there were a few rusty shots and lapses of concentration, but his swing looked good and he appears about 15-20 pounds lighter. It’s worth noting that Phil hasn’t fared well in the desert over the past few years, using the event more as a spring training start. We’ll have a better idea as to the state of his game at Torrey Pines, his third consecutive start.  

6. Players are prohibited from tossing freebies into the stands on 16 at TPC Scottsdale this week, but they ARE allowed to make a direct handoff. With that in mind, here are four items Tiger should personally deliver to the front-row spectators, if he’s keeping a sense of humor:

  • Chiclets
  • Dave Pelz instructional short-game DVD
  • A pair of dad jeans, preferably from Costco
  • A cassette of Luke’s 1997 hit single “Raise the Roof”

7. On Aug. 1, 2014, the PGA Tour issued a statement saying that Dustin Johnson was NOT facing a six-month suspension for failing a third drug test. On Feb. 5, 2015, Dustin Johnson will return to the PGA Tour. Time elapsed: 6 months, 5 days. A coincidence, surely.

8. For a player who has shied away from the spotlight in recent years, Johnson was on quite a p.r. blitz last week. The SI puff piece. The painfully awkward ESPN sit-down. Multiple 1-on-1 phone interviews, including with GolfChannel.com. Read each piece and familiar narratives appear: Wakeup calls. Redemption. Personal growth. Watch the ESPN interview, however, and it’s clear that Johnson has not completely accepted responsibility for whatever “personal challenges” he faced, saying that “I’m not really here today to talk about that” when pressed about whether he has ever used cocaine. P.R. 101: Total honesty is almost always the best strategy. 

9. After Lee Westwood saved an elderly man from drowning in Barbados, this image is forever seared into our minds: 

10. Much was made of Justin Thomas’ incredible lash at the ball, and it's easy to see why. He’s only 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, but he rips through impact with Young Tiger ferocity. Thomas told me his swing speed has maxed out at 119 mph, which would rank him about eighth on Tour – behind Charlie Beljan, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson, Jhonattan Vegas, Brooks Koepka and Andrew Loupe, all of whom are monsters, physically. The player most similar to Thomas in terms of build and swing speed: Charles Howell III.  

11. Win rates for players who were third or better through 36 holes of a PGA Tour event (via Golf Channel research department): 

  • Tiger Woods: 62.7 percent (52 of 83)
  • Rory McIlroy: 43.8 percent (7 of 16)
  • Phil Mickelson: 35.3 percent (24 of 68)
  • Matt Kuchar: 8 percent (2 of 25)

If Kooch were a baseball closer, he’d be searching for employment or floundering in Double-A. He has won seven times, finished in the top-10 in 70 events and banked more than $31 million, but that’s a troubling conversion rate.

12. The last time Rory McIlroy dealt with an off-course distraction at a tournament, he won the BMW PGA. (Sorry, Caroline.) Now, with his court case against his former management team looming next week, the world No. 1 will make his second European Tour appearance of the season in Dubai. The potentially sensitive situation hasn’t deterred oddsmakers, though. Rory is installed as a 3/1 favorite. 

13. Here are a few guys I’ll have in my fantasy lineups this week: Bubba Watson (three consecutive top-10s at TPC Scottsdale; should have won last year), Hideki Matsuyama (T-4 here last year; top-15s in three of his last four events), Brendan Steele (three top-6 finishes in a row here; coming off a T-2 at Humana) and Justin Thomas (back-to-back top-10s to begin 2015). 

With so many questions still unanswered about what actually happened in Honolulu, Robert Allenby will not just subject himself to 500,000 unruly fans this week in Phoenix – he’ll also hold a formal news conference! Who is advising this guy, Kris Jenner?

The biggest storyline heading into Sunday’s action was two-time heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton. At last year’s U.S. Open, he said he hoped his T-2 finish would now force fans to view him as a great golfer, not just a man playing the PGA Tour on his third heart. We're getting there, slowly, but it remains a backstory too remarkable to ignore. 

The 35-year-old Compton has to take dozens of medications each day so his body doesn’t go into a sparring match with his donated heart. Surges of adrenaline make it difficult for him to grip the club under pressure. He warmed up for only 15 minutes Sunday in an attempt to conserve energy. All of that was working against him - there were built-in excuses - but in the aftermath of a disappointing final round at Humana, Compton didn’t hold back. He described his day as “pretty pathetic.” He wasn’t interested in consolation prizes, silver linings or feel-good stories. He didn’t care about holding a share of his first 54-hole lead on Tour, a meaningless statistic, he said, because, “If I looked at statistics, I wouldn’t be standing here.” It took many of us by surprise, but it was refreshing. Who knows how many more chances he’ll get to nab that elusive Tour title. But if he does convert, if he does calm his nerves and put together one magical Sunday, it would not just be one of the greatest stories ever in golf, but in all of sports.

Jason Dufner changed his diet out of necessity. He hasn’t felt good for the past few years, and he wouldn’t have been able to continue playing golf in his old body. So, during the offseason, he shed 20 pounds, stuck to a strict workout regimen and cut out sugars, alcohol and soda. He looks great, even if his golf didn’t. He somehow opened with 76 and missed the 54-hole cut in his season debut at the Humana. ... The USGA will once again require that at least two mid-amateurs make the 2015 U.S. Walker Cup team. (I’ve made my thoughts on that rule abundantly clear.) It’s now a safe bet that one of those two spots will go to Scott Harvey, the 36-year-old reigning Mid-Am champ who won the South American Amateur last weekend. … Humana is no longer the title sponsor of the Palm Springs-area event, but fear not: Tournament officials already have a handshake agreement with a new sponsor. An official announcement is expected “soon,” according to the tournament director. … It may have taken longer than anticipated, but Byeong-Hun An is finally coming into his own. An, who six years ago became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur (age 17), finished fifth in Qatar, his second consecutive top 15 to begin 2015. He is a full-fledged European Tour member this year.

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Spieth reflects on Masters run: 'I could have shot 59'

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 4:21 pm

AVONDALE, La. – After he nearly staged a historic comeback at the Masters, Jordan Spieth rewatched the final-round coverage to see what he could learn.

His biggest takeaway?

“I look back on it and I actually thought that I truly could have shot 59 without doing much more other than making a few more putts,” he said Wednesday at the Zurich Classic, where he’ll team up with Ryan Palmer for the second consecutive year. “I put myself in opportunities on each hole to shoot 59 that day, which is really, really cool.”

Spieth roared from nine shots back Sunday to eventually tie Patrick Reed’s lead. He went out in 31 and added four more birdies, but his tee shot on 18 clipped a tree, leading to a long second shot and a bogey. He settled for a 64 and solo third.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“I felt like Houston, but really at Augusta was the best my swing has ever held up under the gun, especially my driving,” he said. “I wanted to see what that looked like compared to other times.”

Spieth said he developed a good feeling with the last six or seven balls he hit on the range before the final round, and that he noticed on the coverage that he was more stable and patience during his swing.

“In all honestly, I made a couple putts, but it wasn’t really a hot day with the putter,” he said. “I just put myself in position to birdie just about every hole.”

Big picture, Spieth said that after his Masters week he “got on the right path.”

“I was working on things throughout the year, thinking I was doing the right things, and I feel like I got the short game back on track in Houston and Augusta," he said. 

“And to hit some of those putts under pressure and see some go in, I think that will be very beneficial going forward this year. It very well could be a spark for a really solid year.”

Tiger Woods and Kelli Kuehne at the 1996 JCPenney Classic. Getty Images

Another team event? Sure, and do it with the LPGA

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 4:07 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The revamped Zurich Classic is already such a smashing success that it naturally leads to another question: Is there room for one more team event on the PGA Tour schedule?

“It’d have to be something unique and not really out there already,” Billy Horschel said.

Agreed, so it’s time for the PGA and LPGA tours to bring back a mixed-team event.

The two tours previously sponsored a team event for nearly 30 years, the JCPenney Classic, but it hasn’t been played since 1999. When the PGA Tour announced a “strategic alliance” with the LPGA two years ago, one of its core missions was to showcase the deep talent pool and lift both tours to new heights. There’s no better way to do that than to combine forces for an event – especially with the PGA Tour about to unveil a major schedule shakeup and reduce a portion of the fall season.

The field here at the Zurich is proof that there’s a willingness among the players to try something new.

The New Orleans-area stop has never been a must-play for Tour types; the tournament is hosted on a nondescript TPC course and sandwiched between the Masters and The Players during a slow part of the schedule. And yet this is the first time in seven months that all four reigning major champions are in the same event. It’s the strongest field the Zurich has ever had, and if the tournament offered world-ranking points – more on that later – the strength of field would be identical to the Genesis Open, which anchors the West Coast swing.

There’d be a few issues to iron out, of course, including the timing and how the field is assembled.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last year that there’s a “realistic” chance that the men and women could compete at the same time at Kapalua, for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but that option won’t be quite as appealing when the season is condensed. Players who tee it up in paradise are not only looking forward to a working vacation but also trying to get a head start in the FedExCup race.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


If the Tour targets Kapalua for its mixed event, the idea of a “tournament of champions” might also need adjusting. The LPGA (34) has 10 fewer events than the PGA Tour (44), which means fewer opportunities for the players to earn their way into a winners-only event. The simplest solution is to create more of an all-star showcase, filling out the rest of the women’s field with the leading LPGA money earners who didn’t win.

The format is another question. Fourballs and foursomes are familiar to most players, but at the Zurich there’s a growing interest in a third format.

“I’m waiting on a scramble,” said William McGirt, echoing the sentiments of a few other players interviewed. “I don’t care who I’m playing with – I want to play a scramble, just one time.”

And the final piece is the stakes. The Zurich offers Ryder Cup points, (reduced) FedExCup points and a two-year exemption to the winners, but there are no world-ranking points available. For some, that’s a lost week, especially with the top-60 cutoff for the U.S. Open looming. But for others, like Jordan Spieth, who likely won’t have to worry about his world ranking for the next two decades, it’s a chance to “be in a different space than you usually are,” with more emphasis on fun than the result.

Men and women already compete together at the Oates Vic Open in Australia. Co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Australian Ladies Professional Golf and Ladies European Tour, the two events are held concurrently, on the same course, with the men’s and women’s tee times staggered throughout the day. The prize money is split evenly.

More impactful, however, would be mixed teams, competing for a title together.

Steve Stricker still has fond memories of playing in old JCPenny Classic, alongside Vicki Goetze. Last week, at the PGA Tour Champions event, he talked to Davis Love III about how today’s players would gravitate toward another tournament like that.

“We’re in the position to do it again for sure,” he said. “I know I personally respect and look up to those female golfers, and to interact with them would be a lot of fun.”

Horschel, who has played alongside big-hitting Lexi Thompson during the CVS Charity Classic, said he would sign up for a mixed team event on Tour “in a heartbeat.”

“I’d take Lexi or Brooke Henderson or another top girl right now,” he said. “I’ll make a call right now. I don’t care if it’s two years in advance. I’ll reserve them, put down a down payment for their partnership. It’d be really cool. It’s time for someone else to step up and do it.”

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Cancer patient who fulfilled dream of meeting Woods dies

By Will GrayApril 25, 2018, 2:55 pm

Shane Caldwell, who fulfilled a dream of meeting Tiger Woods earlier this month at the Masters, died Monday after multiple bouts with cancer. He was 52.

Caldwell's stepdaughter, Jordan Miller, gained national attention with her social media campaign to get Caldwell to Augusta National to meet Woods. That dream became a reality Thursday of tournament week, when Caldwell was greeted by Woods behind the practice area and offered a signed glove. Caldwell, from Columbia, S.C., also attended the tournament during the final round.

Caldwell had twice beaten colon cancer and was battling Stage 4 lung cancer. According to a report from The State (S.C.), Caldwell's family was told two weeks ago that the cancer had become "too aggressive to fight," and Caldwell opted to stop treatment rather than face further radiation. His oncologist reportedly told his wife he had two or three months to live, but Caldwell died just 13 days later.

According to the report, Caldwell was still showcasing the glove bearing Woods' autograph up until the day he died.

"It gave him hope to see the love that was shown to him," Miller said.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.