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Monday Scramble: Just 'Cant' wait

By Ryan LavnerNovember 6, 2017, 4:50 pm

Patrick Cantlay breaks through, Justin Rose stays hot, Tiger Woods announces his return, a new No. 1 emerges in women's golf and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Was there any other way for Cantlay to get his first win, needing grit and determination and a short memory? It was a fitting first triumph for a kid who has already endured so much.

Once a can’t-miss prospect, he disappeared following a series of physical and personal setbacks. His talent never was a question. It was whether his body would ever allow him to reach his full potential.

Still just 25, Cantlay is fresher than most players his age after three years away from competition. He feels great now – he played a ton of golf this fall, with no limitations – and after a strong 2017 campaign in which he reached the Tour Championship with only a dozen starts, he is now a PGA Tour winner, surviving a nervy finish and three-man playoff in Vegas.

The past few years haven’t been easy. So why would his Tour breakthrough?

1. The last hour of golf at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open was ugly, but it did feature at least one stellar shot.

On the second playoff hole, Cantlay flared his drive into the right rough, behind a tree.

With 185 yards to the flag, and believing that he needed a par to stay alive, Cantlay played the only shot he could – a cut, punch 4-iron that went under one tree branch and over another.

“It was a good shot,” he said. “I was very committed to hitting a good one there.”

Cantlay two-putted from the back fringe for the win over Whee Kim and Alex Cejka. 

2. Here’s a story that I wrote about Cantlay’s return in February. It remains one of the only times that he has discussed his personal tragedy, when he watched his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, get killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2016.

Here’s what he said Sunday night about overcoming adversity to play good golf:

“I don’t really associate the two together that way,” he said. “It feels good to be doing what I feel like I was born to do and what I practiced to do for such a long time. The other part is so separate and it was such a heartbreaking deal that it’s not even on the same level as golf.” 

3. After beginning the year unranked, Cantlay is all the way up to No. 42 in the world.

Jordan Spieth said two months ago that Cantlay is a future top-10 player in the world, a guy who will be a fixture on U.S. cup teams for years to come.

Given Cantlay’s track record, is anyone going to argue? This was the first of many titles.

4. Cantlay wasn’t the only feel-good story of the week.

A.J. McInerney, the Las Vegas resident who survived the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, used a sponsor exemption to earn a tie for 10th in his Tour debut.

That created a dilemma. By virtue of his top-10, McInerney would have been exempt into this week’s event at Mayakoba, but even more pressing was the second stage of Tour Q-School, which begins Tuesday. He needs somewhere to play next year, so he made the tough choice:

Q-School, here he comes.

5. After winning just twice in his previous 62 starts, Justin Rose went back-to-back on the European Tour.

Rose rode a 64-65 weekend in Turkey to overtake a resurgent Nicolas Colsaerts and move within striking distance of Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the Race to Dubai standings (134,839 points). He hasn’t won the European Tour’s Order of Merit since 2007.

Rose is just the third player to follow a WGC title with another victory the following week, joining Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

Look out, Fleetwood. Rose is red hot.

6. Remember those ridiculous pre-tournament publicity photo shoots before the WGC-HSBC Champions, the one this year in which players soared through the air in a harness? Yeah, Henrik Stenson injured himself during it.

“I’m not Superman even though certain people thought I was Superman,” he said after tying for 35th in Turkey.

Henrik Stenson

Stenson said he’s been dealing with a rib injury the past two weeks and is set for an MRI this week. The injury will cause him to miss the final two events of the European Tour season. 

7. The European Challenge Tour wrapped up its season last week, with the top 15 in the points standings earning cards on the big tour next year. 

One notable name who graduated: Chase Koepka, Brooks' younger brother. He finished ninth on the money list and will have full status next year on the European Tour. 

8. Tiger Woods made news last week with what he wrote and what he said.

First, the headline you surely have seen by now: That Woods will return later this month at the Hero World Challenge, a stunning decision by a guy who was cleared for full golf activity only a few weeks ago and who vowed, this time, to take his recovery slowly.

And second, he appeared on legendary UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma’s previously taped podcast, where he dished on his recovery (I'm just a s--- giver who wants to mix it up again with the boys!), his caddie situation (Joey ain’t going anywhere!) and the state of his game.

“I can’t believe how far I’m hitting the golf ball,” he said. “I’m back to hitting it my full numbers, and not really trying to do that. I didn’t realize how much I had dropped off because of the pain in my back … just because I had lived this from day to day and couldn’t tell the difference. But now I can tell the difference, and my posture is so much better over the golf ball.”

A golf ball, he says, that is flying way too far … 

9. It’s a tight race at the top of the LPGA’s Race to the CME Globe. Lexi Thompson leads (3,266 points) but is followed closely by S.H. Park (3,029) and So Yeon Ryu (3,026). Brooke Henderson is fourth.

With her title defense at the Japan Classic, Shanshan Feng is projected to move to fifth.

The top 5 players after this week’s Blue Bay LPGA will win the $1 million CME Globe if they also win the season-ending Tour Championship.

10. Ryu’s time at the top of the Rolex World Rankings has come to an end.

S.H. Park is expected to pass her for the world No. 1 spot, even though she didn’t play in last week’s event.

Ryu needed to finish T-6 or better last week to hold on to the No. 1 ranking, but she tied for 33rd, same as Thompson, who also had a chance to ascend to No. 1. 

Jason Day and his wife, Ellie, announced that they’re expecting their third child sometime in June.

That’s cause for celebration, of course, but also, apparently, some consternation, since it has put Day’s status for next year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock in jeopardy … even though the couple doesn’t yet have a due date.

"Although I’ve had some good results at the U.S. Open" – he has five top-10s in seven Open starts – "Ellie and I are really excited about our third child and I want to be there to support her. I’m not missing the birth."

Nor should he. But can’t we address this in, like, May?

This week's award winners ... 

Can’t Believe That Didn’t Work Out: Bubba Watson’s Volvik deal. Opting for bold colors and a big payday, Watson had one of the worst seasons of his career and showed up in Vegas without a ball deal. He is playing a Titleist ball, like the ol’ days, but without a contract. 

ANOTHER Feel-Good Story: Marc Cayeux. After 27 surgeries following a horrific car accident in 2010, the 39-year-old Zimbabwean made his first cut, on the Sunshine Tour. Your trusty scribe profiled the inspiring Cayeux last year.

Sneaky-Good Fall: Chesson Hadley. After a strong season on the Web, the lanky 30-year-old has kept it rolling this fall, racking up three consecutive top-5 finishes. 

Good on You, Part 1: Charley Hoffman. Donating all of his winnings from last week’s event to the Vegas relief fund, Hoffman tied for 18th and pledged $97,600 to the victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting. 

Good On You, Part 2: Annika Sorenstam. After hearing about the high school girl who won the boys section tournament in Massachusetts but did not get to keep the trophy or advance to the state tournament, Sorenstam invited Emily Nash to her AJGA invitational event in February. 

Big Tiger Guy: Doc Rivers. The Clippers coach told a hilarious story this week about the time he tried to get ejected so he could watch Woods make a run at the Masters. It’s easy to forget now that Tiger, in his prime, was must-see TV.  

Bye, College: Cameron Champ. Champ, a senior at Texas A&M and one of the breakout stars of the U.S. Open, advanced to the final stage of Tour Q-School, which led to his decision to leave school at the halfway point of the season. He will make his pro debut this week in Mexico. That’s a tough break for the Aggies, but they didn’t seem to need him in the fall, winning three times and sitting at No. 4 in the rankings. 

Do It For Twitter: Donald Trump. He clearly was impressed with the way he got through this shot, posting it to Twitter after his round with Japan’s prime minister (Shinzo Abe) and best golfer (Hideki Matsuyama) Sunday at the 2020 Olympic host course.  

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Smylie Kaufman. A winner here in 2015, he turned around a sub-par year with a tie for fourth at the previous week’s Sanderson Farms. Then he turned around and slumped to a 75 in Round 1 on his way to a missed cut. Sigh. 

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”