Monday Scramble: Weird week for Spieth at Valspar

By Ryan LavnerMarch 14, 2016, 4:00 pm

Charl Schwartzel ends his drought Stateside, Jordan Spieth fires back, another amateur shines on the PGA Tour, a guarantee goes awry and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Even major champions have to clear “mental hurdles” once they lose their way on the course. 

Schwartzel’s epic four-birdie run to steal the 2011 Masters was supposed to propel him into another stratosphere, but it only led to more frustration. 

“I figured that I would win a few times the way I played,” he said. “It just never came.”

His playoff victory Sunday in the Valspar Championship may have been his 15th career title worldwide, but it was only his second in the U.S. It doesn't add up.

The South African owns one of the most envy-inducing swings on Tour, yet he has rarely contended in the States. When his swing got off-track late last year, and his world ranking tumbled toward the top 50, he turned to the only coach he has ever known, his father, George.

“If you’re swinging well,” he said, “you start believing in yourself again because you’re hitting good shots.”

Schwartzel has hit plenty of them recently. He won twice in South Africa over the past few months, and then on Sunday in Tampa closed with the best round of the day, a 4-under 67, to earn that long-awaited second PGA Tour title. 

Consider the mental hurdle cleared. 

1. The Masters must be right around the corner – the past champions are rounding into form. 

The last five Masters winners all have won events so far this season, the latest coming at the Valspar, where Schwartzel erased a five-shot deficit on the final day and defeated Bill Haas on the first playoff hole. 

Schwartzel followed victories by Spieth (Kapalua), Bubba Watson (Riviera) and Adam Scott (Doral and Honda). Even Phil Mickelson, the 2010 Masters champion, has shown resurgent play of late, holding the 54-hole lead at Pebble Beach and coming up one shot short.

Will the streak continue this week? Zach Johnson (2007), Trevor Immelman (’08) and Angel Cabrera (’09) are in the field at Bay Hill. Hey, it could happen.  

2. The greens on Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course were resurfaced last summer, and it was clear early on at the Valspar that they were significantly slower than players were accustomed to. 

That’s why, in a sense, it wasn’t a massive surprise that Schwartzel won on Sunday. The tournament was always going to come down to which player made the adjustment and the big putts during a week when everyone – Jordan Spieth included – struggled to get the ball to the cup.

Schwartzel made nearly 145 feet worth of putts in the final round – none bigger than the 64-footer he rolled in on 13 and the 25-footer for birdie on 17. By way of contrast, Haas sank only 72 feet worth of putts on the final day. 

3. Haas became the latest frontrunner to falter down the stretch at Innisbrook. Only twice in the past nine years has the 54-hole leader gone on to win.

Haas said that he was “hanging on by a thread” on the final day, but the tournament was in his hands with three holes to play. From a perfect spot in the 16th fairway, he fanned his approach into the greenside bunker and hit such a poor shot from the sand that he said a “12-handicapper could have done that.” The bogey dropped him into a playoff, which he lost on the first hole after another bogey. 

Why all of the struggles for the leaders on the Copperhead Course? It’s a demanding, strategic layout that dishes out more bogeys than it surrenders birdies. Players are already tight while trying to protect a lead; the pressure is then ratcheted up on a course where every miscue is magnified.

4. It was an odd week both on and off the course for Spieth.

The opening 76 that fueled (absurd) talk of a slide. The quick trigger on social media. The spirited run into the top 10. The bafflement at the slower-than-normal greens. And then the caddie blame game.

The middle rounds of 68-67 showed his grit, but the common denominator last week was one of fatigue. He couldn’t adjust to the greens and showed plenty of frustration and indecision during a wind-whipped final round, his pace of play screeching to a halt at times.

Most unusual, though, was his post-round comment Sunday about poor decision-making with caddie Michael Greller – very surprising, indeed, given how in sync they were a year ago.

“We both get the credit when things are going good,” Spieth said, “and we’re going to take the fall today. I hit the shots, but we made a couple of decisions that make me look back and think, Wow, we’ve got some stuff to talk about before we get ready to go into a major. Bit of a bummer.”

Spieth still appears to be reeling from the early-season scheduling mistake. Ideally, he would take a few weeks off, regroup and get ready for the year’s first major and what figures to be an even more hectic summer. But it’s just not possible. On Monday morning, he was already in New York City promoting the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Then he has two events in a row, the Match Play and Houston, before the Masters. Will he ever catch his breath? 

5. By the way, Spieth may not be at the top of his game, but it's worth remembering that he still has finished inside the top 21 in six of his seven starts this year. That's some "slump," all right. 

6. I wrote a lot about amateur Lee McCoy here, but the main takeaway from his solo fourth in Tampa was that it’s time to start taking these college and amateur stars more seriously.

In the past 14 months, Arizona State’s Jon Rahm (Phoenix), Alabama’s Robby Shelton (Barbasol), Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge (Open) and now Georgia’s McCoy (Valspar) all have earned top-six finishes in PGA Tour events. 

It seems like just a matter of time before an amateur wins again on Tour. It hasn’t happened since Mickelson, then a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State, won in 1991. 

7. Even after a tough day, Spieth applauded McCoy as he finished out on the 18th green. Spieth, of course, knew the feeling well, contending in his hometown tournament as an amateur. He had done the same thing nearly six years earlier, when he stole the show at the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas as a 16-year-old. He tied for 16th. 

8. A new USGA rule that allows amateurs to participate in a pro event and then donate the earnings to a recognized charity won’t have as much of an impact as it initially seemed. 

The PGA Tour made it clear that its regulations regarding amateur status remain unchanged and likely will stay that way for the foreseeable future. At Tour events, amateurs are not entitled to any official prize money, and the cash they would have earned goes to the player(s) directly behind him on the leaderboard.

That meant the $292,800 that would have gone to McCoy for his solo fourth instead was split by the players who tied for fifth, Graham DeLaet and Charles Howell III.

The aim of Rule 3-1b was to allow amateurs to compete in exhibitions or events that support a bona fide charity, not necessarily a U.S. Open or a Tour event. Instead, it was the tournament organizers in Tampa who stepped up for McCoy, offering to make an undisclosed donation to the charity of his choice – 50 Legs, started by a close friend of McCoy’s who provides prosthetic legs to kids and adults.   

9. Last week might be the final time that DeLaet publicly declares that he’s going to win a tournament.

One shot back after 54 holes, the Canadian, winless in 136 PGA Tour starts, proclaimed that “tomorrow is going to be the day” and left little doubt that he was about to take the title. 


DeLaet shot a birdie-less 75 and tied for fifth.

He backtracked afterward, saying that he didn’t “Babe Ruth and call my shot or anything like that. I needed to believe in myself. I wanted to take control.” 

This was DeLaet’s 19th top-10 over the last four seasons. Only Sergio Garcia, with 21, has more over that span without a victory.

I'm Ryan Lavner, and I support this message.

This week's award winners ... 

Double Whammy: McCoy’s amateur status. Not only did he miss out on nearly $300,000, but he couldn’t collect the non-member FedEx Cup points because he wasn’t a pro. That would have gone a long way toward qualifying him for the Tour Finals at the end of the year (and potentially earned his PGA Tour card), but now he’ll be starting from scratch once he turns pro after the NCAAs in June. Ouch. 

SOS: Steven Bowditch. Fortunately, he snapped a run of five consecutive rounds in the 80s, but his form chart has seen better days. His last eight scores on Tour: 80-72-81-80-80-84-81-76. Time for a break. 

• Have Game, Will Travel: Scott Hend. He finished 63rd out of 65 players at Doral, shooting 22 over. Seven days later, he won the European Tour event in Thailand, shooting 18 under. 

• Anyone Hiring a Writer?: Tiger Woods. The former world No. 1 tapped out his second blog post in the past nine days, only this time, well, he didn't have much to say, writing about a three-week-old Ryder Cup dinner and his nationally televised appearance at Bluejack National. Maybe writing is a form of physical therapy?

• End of an Era?: Ian Poulter at the WGC-Match Play. Barring any other withdrawals, one of the best match-play competitors of his generation will miss the event for the first time since 2003. Patton Kizzire currently holds the 66th and final spot for Austin.

Take Cover!: Justin Thomas' failed driver-off-the-deck shot Saturday. From 268 yards away, Thomas tried to reach the par 5 in two on the 14th hole at Innisbrook. He hit well behind the ball and sliced it, badly, into a few unsuspecting fans. The best part? He still made birdie. 

Um, Whatever Works?: Shingo Katayama. If you don't think pros are always looking for the next key to make more putts, check out this pre-shot routine:

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

Getty Images

McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

Getty Images

Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.