Monday Scramble: 10 favorites for Chambers Bay

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2015, 11:00 am

Breaking down the favorites for Chambers Bay, Inbee Park's sixth major title, another out-of-nowhere PGA Tour winner, Andrey Pavlov's unmitigated disaster and more in this week's file-before-the-boarding-door-closes edition of the Monday Scramble:

Get ready for the Unknown Open.

After months of criticism and bellyaching about the mysterious links-style course near Puget Sound, the best players on the planet will finally tee it up in what figures to be the most fascinating major of the year. 

Fascinating for a number of reasons: (1) The course is unlike any we’ve ever seen for a U.S. Open, with firm-and-fast fescue turf that will play more like a British links; (2) the early reviews have been so overwhelmingly negative that attitude and patience likely will be just as significant as crisp ball-striking and timely putting; and the players’ pent-up frustration with the USGA – from past setup failures to the anchoring ban to the arrogant claims that only those who arrive early and play often have a chance to win – ensures this is a make-or-break week for Mike Davis and Co. If this Open veers into goofy golf territory – as it did for the stroke-play portion of the 2010 U.S. Amateur, which I covered – Davis risks losing the players' trust forever. 

This intriguing test could be a train wreck – well, hopefully not literally, because there is a noisy train that runs alongside Nos. 15-17 – or an all-time great Open. Whatever happens, it's guaranteed to be a fascinating week. 

1. What the heck is happening lately on the PGA Tour? The favorites to win might as well be the guys who are struggling the most.

The last three winners on the PGA Tour were seven shades of slumping: Steven Bowditch had zero top-10s in last 17 starts. David Lingmerth? None in his last 27.

Hey, at least Fabian Gomez had a top-10 at some point this season … though that was back in October (a span of 15 events). 

Little wonder there's no truly dominant player anymore. Seems anybody – seriously, ANYBODY – can win any given week out here. 

2. One man’s top-10 favorites for the U.S. Open: 

  1. Jordan Spieth: His stellar short game is perfectly suited for a grind-it-out Open, and having caddie Michael Greller (who used to loop at Chambers) on the bag is a huge advantage.
  2. Rickie Fowler: No one will embrace the unique challenges of this Open quite like Fowler, who thrives in linksy conditions. Wouldn’t surprise at all if Rickie copies Martin Kaymer and pulls off the Players-Open double. 
  3. Phil Mickelson: It’s his last best chance to win an Open. Needs to hit more greens and scramble better than he has in the past few years, but this gamer still knows how to summon his best stuff for the biggest events (see: back-to-back runners-up in majors).
  4. Hideki Matsuyama: He’s a threat every time he tees it up, and his plodding, precision game should work well at an event in which the winning score will be somewhere around par. 
  5. Dustin Johnson: His incredible length will allow him to cut corners and attack Chambers’ massive, undulating greens in ways his fellow competitors cannot. Another plus: DJ has shown more on-course maturity and discipline since returning from his leave of absence.
  6. Justin Rose: World-class ball-striker enters this week in great form. Only question mark: He doesn’t have a particularly strong record on firm, fast, linksy layouts. 
  7. Rory McIlroy: When he’s on, he’s untouchable. Here’s hoping his missed cuts overseas were a result of fatigue, nothing more, because this event will be more interesting if he’s a factor.  
  8. Bubba Watson: Has only played five times over the past three months, so his form is a bit of a mystery. So is his mindset. Chambers is all about guessing how the ball will react once it hits the ground; will Bubba unravel with the first bad hop into the hay? 
  9. Henrik Stenson: Not in the greatest form since coming down with the pre-Masters flu bug, but there is no better iron player in the game. Low expectations, big payoff? 
  10. Jason Day: Liked him a lot more before he developed these vertigo-like symptoms. Has struggled in the past on fast layouts, but his talent is undeniable. 

3. Others worth a look in your U.S. Open pools: Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel, Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk. 

4. Come on, man! Give us some sleepers! Not so fast. Eight of the past 10 major winners were ranked inside the top 20 in the world. No flukes here. 

5. Mike Davis is a smart man. Here’s guessing he learned a thing or two from the 2010 U.S. Amateur. 

The second day of stroke play was a disaster zone. A blast of warm air rolled through the area and made Chambers a baked-out, tricked-up hell for players. Spieth, Koepka, Daniel Berger and Russell Henley – all of whom are now on the PGA Tour – shot in the 80s in their one round of qualifying. When the setup crew mercifully dumped water on the greens and made the hole locations more accessible, it achieved its desired result: a blockbuster final four, with Peter Uihlein, David Chung, Patrick Cantlay and Byeong-Hun An. In the 36-hole final, Uihlein, then the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, won by a 4-and-2 margin. 

Now, keep in mind that in the five years since a few teeing areas were added and the most treacherous greens have been recontoured, but the point remains: Davis saw Chambers’ potential as a fair, punishing venue that still produced high-quality, entertaining golf. His job now is to not get in the way.  

6. Inbee Park completed an unusual three-peat on Sunday. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for the third consecutive year, on the third different venue.

Only two players, all time, had accomplished that feat: Patty Berg (1937-39) and Annika Sorenstam (2003-05). Inbee has now won five of the last 12 majors (!).

7. With all of the fawning over the teen phenom, it’s easy to overlook what Park has accomplished this season. She has the lowest scoring average, the most rounds under par and the most top-10s this year. Oh, and she also returned to world No. 1. 

8. So here’s an interesting factoid about Lydia Ko: Her two worst performances of the season have come at the two biggest events. She tied for 51st at the ANA Inspiration, then missed the cut at the Women’s PGA after rounds of 72-76. The 18-year-old star may look relaxed as she laughs off the pressure of being the top-ranked player in the world at the majors, but apparently she’s not as loose once play begins.   

9. It’s time for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan to green-light Brooke Henderson’s age-waiver petition. She recorded another high finish in a major last week at the KPMG Women’s PGA (T-5), giving the 17-year-old Canadian starlet her second top-five and fifth top-25 of the season. Whan said he wants to see Henderson win an event before he waives the under-18 rule, but the fact that she’s routinely beating the best the LPGA has to offer is reason enough. If the Commish doesn't step in, Henderson might have only three events left this season, and that'd be a shame for this supreme talent. Just look at the leaderboard – she’s ready to be a tour member. 

10. Expectations for Tiger at the Open? Basically, what they’ve been for the past six months – he’ll struggle to make the cut, and whether he sticks around for the weekend depends on if he can avoid the blowup holes. If he didn’t fix the two-way miss that plagued him at the Memorial, Woods could get eaten alive at Chambers, even with its forgiving fairways. Another thing to watch: Maybe he was just being careless because he was so far off the lead, but a few of his iffy short-game shots resurfaced at Muirfield Village. That doesn’t bode well for this Open, where there is insanely tight turf and severely sloping greens.

11. Mark Broadie, a Columbia University professor and the Tour’s preeminent numbers guy, unearthed a statistical gem last week in a column for

Attempting to put Tiger’s most dominant run in perspective, Broadie discovered that Woods beat the field – or shot a round better than the average score of the field for that round – a mind-blowing 89 consecutive times from August 1999 through November 2000. That’s nearly three times more than Mark O’Meara (33), the next closest on the list. 

Try to wrap your head around that near-impossible level of consistency. Tiger didn’t take a day off, have a bad round, mail it in. Every single round he shot an above-average score that was better than half of the field. 

It’s been said that Tiger’s consecutive cut-made streak of 142 might never be approached again, and that’s probably true. But this stat – this remarkable day-in, day-out consistency – is even more impressive. 

Andrey Pavlov received a sponsor exemption to play in last week’s Lyoness Open, an awfully generous move considering this was a player who had yet to make the cut in 15 tries on the European and Challenge tours.

It’s hard to see him getting another chance now. 

Pavlov shot a respectable opening 71 in Austria, then ran into a little* trouble on the par-5 first hole. (*OK, a LOT.) Just when you thought the 1,598th-ranked player in the world couldn’t get any worse, he rinsed six shots and recorded a 17, which was the second-highest single-hole score in Euro Tour history. Poor Philippe Porquier’s 20 at the 1978 French Open is still the worst ever. 

This week's award winners ... 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: DJ. Dude was a lock for a high finish last week in Memphis … until he bowed out, citing an illness, after playing his opening nine in 3 over. Maybe he ate some bad ’cue, maybe he wanted to head to Seattle early, maybe he just wanted to spite all of us who took him in Group 1. Whatever. He’ll probably win at Chambers. 

I DON'T NEED THAT STUPID 3-WOOD!: Greg Owen, after rinsing his tee shot on the 11th hole Sunday, decapitated his fairway wood:

You Guys Busy in 2016?: Hunter Stewart (departing Vanderbilt senior) and Robby Shelton (rising Alabama junior) were the only players to sport a 4-0 record at the Palmer Cup, college golf’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup.

Oldie but Goodie: Bernhard Langer. He won another senior major in a rout. His six-shot margin of margin was huge … but not even close to his own record, set at last year’s Senior British Open, where he won by 13. Hale Irwin (12) and Arnold Palmer (11) also had double-digit margins of victory in senior majors.  

Doctor in the House: Colin Montgomerie. Monty spent Sunday morning in a Massachusetts hospital with chest pains, per Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte. Apparently, it was NOT related to Langer stomping the field at the Senior Players, the over-50 set’s 736th major of the year (roughly). Montgomerie was cleared to return, shot 3 under and tied for third. 

Yeah, But Can You Do it When it Counts?: Bubba Watson. This insane putt gives you a pretty good idea of the severity of some of these slopes. Alas, Bubba has a better chance of four-jacking this putt than actually making it during the tournament: 

Hold Your Tongue: Ian Poulter. Who will step up to fill his whiny void

The biggest story early is the course – how will it be set up, how will it hold up, who will embrace it? It’s a massive unknown, which is why we’ve seen so many stars head out there early for scouting trips. 

After that, I’ll be most interested in seeing which star rises to the occasion. We’ve hit a lull in the schedule – after a historic Masters and a thrilling Players, there have been a number of dud winners. So now we wonder ... Will Jordan go back-to-back? Will Rickie build on his important win? Will Rory remind everyone who is No. 1? Check back next week, when we have more answers (maybe).  

How about three? 

  • Could do worse than local boy Ryan Moore. Born and raised a few miles from Chambers Bay, he’s at least played there, which should count for something, though never in the tournament conditions he’ll face this week. (He held a charity event there for a couple of years.) Many would be tempted to dismiss Moore because he bunts it off the tee, but he managed himself just fine at big-boy Augusta National with a T-12 showing. Mixed results of late, but he did start well at the Memorial before settling for a top-20. 
  • Webb Simpson has already won a U.S. Open on the Left Coast, and he’s striking the ball better than at any point in his career. Entering last week he was ranked fourth in the strokes gained-tee to green statistic, and we say “entering last week” because, well, he missed the cut in Memphis. If he can shake in enough putts – he’s an awful 170th on Tour on the greens – he’ll be in contention. 
  • OK, so Charley Hoffman isn’t going to dazzle you, but the guy has played some of the best golf of his career this season. The 38-year-old Californian has seven top-15s this season, and that includes (A) a ninth-place showing at the Masters, and (B) back-to-back top-10s in Texas, his most recent appearances. Hmmm.  
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”