Monday Scramble: After drops, can Phil rise again?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 9, 2015, 3:20 pm

Russell Knox notches his first victory, Phil Mickelson breaks up with Butch Harmon, Dustin Johnson gets unlucky, Steve Williams blames others, and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Phil Mickelson has dropped outside the top 25 in the world ranking for the first time in more than 20 years. He also announced that he was splitting with swing coach Harmon.

A coincidence? No way.

Mickelson made one thing clear with his decision to dump the best swing coach on the planet: He still believes that he has plenty of good golf left, even entering his age-46 season.

Winless in more than two years, he has only contended a handful of times since, and two of those were out-of-nowhere performances at the majors. Mostly, he has looked lethargic. His driving has been as erratic as ever. His usually stellar wedge play has been mediocre. His putting has been suspect.

Lefty needed a change, if only to get re-engaged. 

The big question now is whether new swing thoughts will lead to different results. There are plenty of reasons for skepticism – age, health, better competition, putting woes, desire, etc. – but he now has more than three months to develop a rapport with Andrew Getson (or someone else), to iron out the kinks, to turn around his game. Does he have a little more magic, a few more wins, maybe even a major, still left in that body? Phil clearly believes so, and that's all that matters.

1. How unlikely was Russell Knox’s victory at the HSBC Champions? He is the first player since 1999 – when the four-tournament series debuted – to win in his first World Golf Championships appearance.

In fact, Knox didn’t even learn that he was in the HSBC field until his first round in Malaysia. That started a hectic process of securing a Chinese visa (thanks to his “superstar” wife, Andrea) and getting caddie Bradley Whittle to Shanghai. 

Of his wife, Knox said: “She’s the reason I’m sitting here right now.”

2. It’s nice to see that the, ahem, old guys can still get it done on the PGA Tour. 

Knox, who is (gasp) 30, is the first winner this season who wasn’t 23 or younger. He also snapped a string of seven consecutive winners in their 20s, the longest streak in nearly 30 years. 

The Scot was the fourth consecutive first-time winner during this nascent season. It's only getting tougher for Jordan, Jason, Rory and Co.

3. No practice, no problem? That was the case last week at Sheshan International. 

Knox had his wife caddie for him in the pro-am because his regular looper hadn’t yet arrived in the country. He won. 

Kevin Kisner had never played the course and didn’t play a practice round because of a bad back. He opened with 64 and eventually finished second, his fourth runner-up this year.

4. Say this for the Phil-Butch split: It was anything but acrimonious.

Mickelson handled the breakup with class, flying to Las Vegas to deliver the news in person. It stood in stark contrast to the way that Tiger Woods handled his split with Harmon back in 2002. 

Lefty even said he would continue to bounce ideas off Harmon, who will be just fine, of course, with a stable that still includes Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, among others. 

5. There were some information discrepancies last week regarding Mickelson’s next coach. Golf Digest said that Mickelson has been working with Scottsdale-based Andrew Getson since splitting with Harmon. A few hours later, Mickelson said that he simply had engaged in discussions with Getson, he doesn’t know where those will lead, and he expects to make a formal announcement in January, when he returns to action.

The backpedalling is a clear attempt to spare Harmon some public embarrassment and take some heat off of Getson, who has a relatively low profile in coaching circles. It’s a smart move too, in case their work this offseason doesn’t go in a direction that Mickelson likes. 

6. Danny Willett’s closing 62 in Shanghai should make the Race to Dubai even more compelling. 

The Englishman now trails Rory McIlroy by just 74,214 points heading into next week’s BMW Masters, which Willett is playing and McIlroy is not. A top-25 finish will be enough to send Willett to the top of the points list. 

Not that McIlroy, who tied for 11th at HSBC despite losing 10 pounds from food poisoning, seems fazed. 

“I’m just with the mindset that I need to go to Dubai and win,” he said, “and whatever happens from there, that’s all I can do.”

7. Given his limited preparation, Jordan Spieth was “extremely pleased” with a tie for seventh at the HSBC. He didn’t pick up a club for two weeks after the Presidents Cup – his longest break, he said, in nearly a decade – and then struggled to find a rhythm on the course.

The good news? Well, for starters, he shot a third-round 63 to surge up the leaderboard. He got some much-needed reps before his final two events of the season, the Australian Open and World Challenge, the tournaments that kick-started his historic run this year. And, yes, he took back the No. 1 ranking from Jason Day, who was idle last week.

“Everyone is pushing each other a little bit,” Spieth said, “and when that No. 1 ranking slips away, it leaves some unrest in you and you really want to get back at it.” 

8. If you didn't realize that there was another PGA Tour event going on last week (it's scheduled to finish today, in Mississippi), Boo Weekley made headlines by blasting the now 3-year-old wraparound schedule, saying that it “sucks” and that it’s “stupid” and that the nonstop golf leaves no time for more important stuff ... like hunting and fishing.

Newsflash, Boo (and any other player who is complaining): No one is forcing you to play. 

If you want to take off the entire fall and fire more shots with your rifle than your driver, hey, go ahead. You'll be giving everybody else a head start, and it’ll make your FedEx Cup climb more arduous, but look on the bright side: At least for a few months your occupation – one that has given you more than $13.5 million – won’t be so “aggravating.”

9. After a year spent toiling on the circuit (49th on the money list), Haotong Li entered an entirely different realm last week at the HSBC Champions, where the 20-year-old was feted like a rockstar.

Drawing crowds even bigger than Spieth’s group, Li responded by finishing seventh in Shanghai. It was the best finish on Tour by a Chinese player since Wenchong Liang (T-8, 2010 PGA).   

Just one shot out of the lead heading into the final round, Li hooked his first two tee shots Sunday and quickly was 3 over. He went out in 38 to end his chances, but two late birdies allowed him to finish inside the top 10. 

“Man, did he have heart,” Spieth said afterward. “It was unbelievable some of the stuff he was pulling off.”

10. Good thing Dustin Johnson has the perfect disposition to shrug off misfortune and near misses, because there sure have been a lot of them in his star-crossed career.

Johnson, whose power was so intimidating that Knox didn’t even watch a shot on the front nine Sunday, was one shot behind when his wedge shot into the par-5 eighth hole danced near the cup and looked as though it’d leave him a tap-in for birdie. Instead, it caromed off the flag and trickled back into the creek, leading to a double bogey.

He wound up in a tie for fifth, four shots behind, but make no mistake: He is still winning off the course. More on that later. 

11. This is uncharted territory for two of the game’s biggest stars – at least when it comes to the world ranking. 

After the most recent update, Woods, out indefinitely after a second (and then third) back procedure, found himself at No. 362 in the world, just behind Jazz Janewattananond. It's his worst position since his rookie year.

Mickelson, who has just five Tour top-10s since his win at Muirfield in 2013, is now ranked No. 27. It’s the first time he has been ranked outside the top 25 since September 1995 – a span of 1,048 weeks. 

And with no scheduled starts the rest of the calendar year, their positions will only get worse. 

12. At least one season-long award has been wrapped up on the LPGA.

Sei Young Kim has clinched Rookie of the Year honors with two events still remaining on the schedule. The 22-year-old has made a quick impression, compiling three wins, one runner-up and six other top-10s in 25 events this season. She is ranked seventh in the world. 

With $1,727,436 in earnings, Kim has already deposited the third-most money ever by a rookie and could join Lydia Ko as the only newcomers in LPGA history to surpass $2 million in a season. 

So who’s to blame in the latest Steve Williams saga?

His publishers, of course!

Williams whined that his own people misrepresented his views by focusing on the most salacious comment in his new book – that Woods treated Williams like a "slave" on the course. 

“It’s one word, one sentence, out of a whole book,” Williams said. 

Yes, but it was a word that HE chose, a sentence that HE wrote and a section that HE OK'd. Nothing better than when an autobiographer claims his own work was taken out of context.

Adam Scott says that he doesn’t think Williams’ remarks will be a distraction when, or if, he returns to the bag in 2016. Don’t be so sure, because Williams didn’t just sound off on Woods. He also decided to throw shade at Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Kevin Na, among others. 

For those vindictive remarks, will he blame his publishers, too? 

This week's award winners ... 

Bold Play of the Week: Rory McIlroy, who wore white pants during the second round, when he was still feeling the effects of food poisoning.

User Error: Matt Fitzpatrick’s amateur status. Well, yeah, the kid looks like he’s 12 instead of 21, but he’s very much a pro now. A European Tour winner, even. 

A Potentially Significant Story in 10 Months: The European players currently ineligible for the 2016 Ryder Cup. Right now, that list includes two players in the OWGR top 31: Paul Casey and Knox. Only European Tour members can qualify for the team.

All Good Things Come to An End: Karrie Webb’s player-caddie relationship with Mike Paterson. Webb announced they were parting ways Sunday after 15 years together. 

Uh, Isn't This What Snapchat is For?: Paulina Gretzky, attempting to cheer up fiancé Dustin Johnson after his tough break halfway across the world:

love you @djohnsonpga Dirty Diana

A photo posted by Paulina Gretzky (@paulinagretzky) on

Anchors Away: Bernhard Langer, who went out on top with his broomstick putter, becoming the first player to win three Charles Schwab Cup titles.  

Most Resourceful: Brandt Snedeker, who found a new use for an extra golf club: 

A Kid Everyone Can Cheer For: Justin Thompson, a two-time cancer survivor who gave a verbal commitment to play college golf at SMU beginning in fall 2017.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.