Monday Scramble: Celeb-rate good times

By Ryan LavnerJuly 3, 2017, 4:00 pm

Danielle Kang wins a thriller, Kyle Stanley holds off Charles Howell III, Tommy Fleetwood sprints toward Birkdale, Kenny Perry sets records and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:

Kang saw this breakthrough coming, even if few others did.

She wasn’t on fire heading into the KPMG Women’s PGA – she had only three top-10s in the past few months. And she wasn’t used to major pressure – her previous best finish was a tie for 17th.

Yet the 24-year-old former world-beater got help from those around her, and even up above, as she snapped a 143-event winless drought in capturing her first LPGA title (and major).

In a daily journal that she has written to her late father ever since he passed in 2013, Kang scribbled on the eve of the final round: “Just keep watching. I got this.”

And indeed she did.  

1. It’s fair to say Kang’s victory was one of the most popular on the LPGA in years. Texts from all over the golf and pop-culture world poured in, as everyone from Dustin Johnson to Wayne Gretzky to Caitlyn Jenner to Marcus Allen wrote Kang to offer support, encouragement and then congratulations. They're all connections from Sherwood Country Club in LA, where she used to play and practice.

DJ’s congratulatory text on Sunday: “That’s how you’re supposed to play.” 

2. Yeah, you could say bestie Michelle Wie and Kang are pretty tight:

3. Kang, a two-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion, also ended an American drought in one of the year’s biggest events. The San Francisco native is just the second U.S.-born winner in the past 17 editions of the Women’s PGA. 

4. So much for that slump. Young Canadian star Brooke Henderson admitted to feeling the heat earlier this season when she failed to record a top-10 in her first 12 starts of the year. That all changed at the Meijer LPGA Classic, where she won at 21 under par, and then she closed with a 66 on Sunday at the Women’s PGA to scare Kang and finished second in her major title defense.

Moving into the heart of the season, she’s clearly playing better than both of her primary rivals, Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. 

5. It’s been a long, difficult road back to relevance for Stanley, who broke down in tears in his winner’s news conference afterward.

A can’t-miss kid out of Clemson, he had a standout rookie season in 2011 and won a year later. Almost nothing has gone right since.

He has been one of the Tour's worst putters. He went 42 consecutive starts without a top 10. He even split time on the PGA and tours. 

But he showed that he was moving in the right direction with a tie for fourth at The Players, where he shared the 54-hole lead, and then he closed with 66 on Sunday, making a gutsy par on the first playoff hole to defeat Howell.

“There was some doubt there for a little bit,” Stanley said. “It’s no fun. You certainly question if you’ll get back and have a moment like this. It’s what makes this pretty special.” 

6. Golf at the highest level has shifted away from drive-for-show, putt-for-dough mantra for a number of years now, and Stanley reminded us Sunday that for the elite ball-strikers, simply putting average will be good enough some weeks to get a W.

Stanley joined Jason Dufner (Memorial) as the only players to win on the PGA Tour this season with negative strokes gained-putting for the week. Stanley lost 0.28 strokes to the field on the greens (ranked 52nd) but was exceptional off the tee and approaching the green, ranking first and fourth, respectively.

7. There were many fans rooting for Howell on Sunday, and for good reason.

Though he has won only twice in his career – and not since 2007 – he has a whopping 16 second-place finishes. It looked like he was destined to get off the schneid on Sunday, until his 18-footer on the last green crawled over the left edge of the cup.

“I was really shocked that missed low,” he said. “I thought I made that.” 

A win last week – after missing the previous nine weeks with a rib injury, and only nine days after he first hit balls – would have been a fitting result for his head-scratching career. 

His runner-up finish (and $767,000 paycheck) pushed him over $33 million in career earnings. That ranks 21st all time.

8. Sung Kang called it bad timing. It was bad luck, too.

The forecast Sunday at the Quicken Loans National called for a 0 percent chance of rain. Instead, there was a five-minute squall late on the back nine, and it seemed to doom Kang's chances

First he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 16. And then, still soaked from the previous hole, he rinsed his tee shot on 17, leading to a double bogey.

Hard to blame the caddie in this situation. Blame the meteorologist!

9. Neither Howell nor Kang earned the victory, but they did receive a consolation prize: A spot in this month’s Open Championship.

Seemingly always on the bubble for the Masters, Howell’s appearance at Birkdale will be his first at The Open since 2012, and just his second major overall since 2014.

The other qualifiers were Stanley and Martin Laird.

10. As our focus narrows to the year’s third major, let’s set the over/under on the number of pre-tournament Open stories on Tommy Fleetwood at, say, 87.5.

The winner of the French Open grew up about five minutes from Royal Birkdale, host of this year’s Open, and he used to sneak onto the course as a youngster. There’s no way he’ll go under the radar now – he should be on everyone’s list of the top 10 contenders.

11. Fleetwood’s rise to No. 15 in the world still somehow feels underappreciated.

The Englishman won in Dubai and France, placed second in the WGC event in Mexico, posted another top-10 in the European Tour’s flagship event and finished fourth in the U.S. Open. He looks more like a grunge rocker than a primetime player, but he’s shown all year that he has the goods and should be taken seriously. 

12. Low scores were all the rage once again at a USGA Open. What in the name of Mike Davis is going on here?

Just like at Erin Hills, where Brooks Koepka overpowered the longest course in U.S. Open history and shot 16 under to win, Kenny Perry went low to win Sunday.

Overnight rain before the first three rounds took all of the fire out of an already short Salem Country Club, and Perry’s 16-under 264 total was the lowest in tournament history – by three strokes. Kirk Triplett and Brandt Jobe also shot 62s, which tied the mark for the lowest scores ever in a senior major. 

This was Perry's second U.S. Open title and ninth overall on the senior circuit. 

13. Call off the Grand Slam watch. Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 74 and tied for 18th in his bid to capture a third consecutive senior major. Even worse is that slow-motion replay again showed that his left hand was a liiiiiittle too close to his sternum not to be considered anchoring. He met with USGA officials over the weekend to discuss the questions about the legality of his stroke, and he was eventually cleared.

“They brought it to my attention, but they said it was totally within the rules,” Langer said. “For people to be complaining, they often don’t know what they are talking about.” 

People on social media lost their minds last week when it was announced that NBA star Steph Curry would receive a sponsor exemption into the Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic next month.

Look, I can see both sides here.

The timing is not ideal. The tournament is played in August, as the is wrapping up its season, and playing opportunities that time of year could mean the difference in status for 2017-18. Totally get that.

But Curry is receiving one of the unrestricted sponsor exemptions, which means – you guessed it! – there are no restrictions on how it can be used. Most times, these are favors to tournament officials, feel-good stories, local heroes, whatever. This just so happened to go to one of the most famous athletes in the world, a 2 handicap who is still, according to some people, “taking a spot away from someone else.”

That’s just not true.

In all likelihood, that spot wasn’t going to a player who missed Monday qualifying by one shot, or a fresh college graduate in need of a spot start, or a guy on a money-list bubble. Curry will bring some much-needed attention to the – who knows, it could draw the attention of another sponsor – and when he shoots in the upper-70s and misses the cut, it’ll reinforce the massive divide between great everyday amateurs and the pros.

This week's award winners ... 

Cuteness Overload: Spieth-Greller wannabes. See, this is what can happen when golf actually has a cool celebration for once.

Just Not Your Year: Michael Buttacavoli. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the guy who had to withdraw from U.S. Open qualifying because an airline lost his clubs. Well, it happened again, this time as he prepared for British Open qualifying. Fortunately, his sticks eventually arrived in London, after another lengthy delay. If he doesn’t earn a major spot, he at least should get 100,000 airline points.  

Very Good … and Very Bad: Rickie Fowler. He made a career-high nine birdies in the final round at TPC Potomac, but he also squandered a chance to win with a crushing double bogey on the drivable 14th hole, the easiest on the course. He tied for third, two shots back. 

Tweet of the Week: Zac Blair. Indeed, two doubles in a three-hole span on the back nine proved costly, as he dropped into a tie for 29th

Sorry, Mom: Haotong Li. His mom waded into a muddy hazard at the French Open to retrieve her son’s discarded putter. Except it was snapped into two pieces. Thomas Pieters' reaction is glorious.

Finally Got In His Dig: Justin Thomas. It had been a few weeks since Johnny Miller undercut JT’s 63 with a line about how the U.S. Open was more like the Tour’s old Milwaukee event. Thomas was asked if he’d studied the list of the players who shot 63 in the U.S. Open. “I haven’t looked at who did it,” he said. “I know Johnny Miller has, because he reminds us of that quite a bit.” 

When the Shanks Strike: Doug Garwood. He was cruising along in the U.S. Senior Open until he hit a vicious shank on the 54th hole. (All credit to him for laughing it off.) He wound up with double, his fourth dropped shot in the last four holes, and he eventually tied for 10th after a closing 71. 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Si Woo Kim. With Kim, we’ve officially reached the point where we’re guessing how he’s going to play. Always a risk to withdrawal, he instead shot 79 in the first round – this, after tying for 13th in the U.S. Open – and missed the cut by a mile. Sigh. 

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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