The Hall calls, Marc Leishman and Eddie Pepperell flip a switch, the 2020 Ryder Cup leaders come into focus, Brooks Koepka defuses the drama and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:
Struggling to remain relevant, the World Golf Hall of Fame didn’t do itself any favors with its latest inductees.
It’s not that the Class of 2019 isn’t deserving – quite the opposite, in fact.
It’s the timing that is most curious.
Peggy Kirk Bell, for example, was honored through the lifetime achievement category. She died in 2016, at the age of 95, so what’s changed in the past two years that she suddenly is worthy of inclusion? What a thrill it would have been for her and her family to receive that recognition in her final years. Instead, she'll be honored posthumously, in what seems like a decision that was made a decade too late.
So what does this mean for others in that category moving forward?
Will Tom Weiskopf have to wait until he passes? Butch Harmon, too?
What was the rush to induct Retief Goosen, who turns 50 in February? Surely his seven PGA Tour victories, 30-plus international wins and two major titles could have waited a few more classes.
The selection process underwent a facelift a few years ago, to put the decision-making into the “right hands,” but it's clear that this new system isn’t much better.
1. Marc Leishman was hitting it so sideways last week that he thought he’d have to call Callaway and request more golf balls be put in his locker.
He ended up shooting 25 under to equal the tournament record at the CIMB Classic. In a three-way tie for the lead after 54 holes, he broke away from the pack with four birdies in his first five holes and a 7-under 65 to cruise to a five-shot victory.
"Sorted that out and this is the result," he said.
2. After the first multi-win season of his career in 2016-17, Leishman barely advanced to the Tour Championship in the recently completed 2017-18 season, sweating it out as the No. 29 seed. Barring a midseason swoon in ’19, however, he should be in a much better position to advance to East Lake after picking up an early-season victory.
“Once you’ve got a good early start, you can really just think about winning and that’s exciting for next week and the rest of the year,” he said.
Next week, of course, is the CJ Cup in Korea, where last year Leishman lost in a playoff to Justin Thomas. The good vibes should continue.
3. And look who’s gearing up for his title defense.
After falling off the pace midway through the CIMB, Thomas rallied with a best-of-the-day-tying 64 in the final round to jump all the way into a tie for fifth.
4. Leishman wasn’t the only player who was down on his game before his big week.
Eddie Pepperell’s form leading up to the British Masters was, he said, “the worst I’ve played for ages.” He then went wire to wire in miserable conditions at Walton Heath, securing his second European Tour title of the season.
The victory moved Pepperell to No. 33 in the world rankings, all but assuring that he will earn an invitation to the Masters next April via the top-50 exemption rule.
“It’s always been a dream to play in the Masters,” he said. “It also shows I’m not a one-hit wonder.”
5. Everything needs to come together to get a W.
After a nervy three-putt on No. 9 Sunday to drop only one shot clear, Pepperell holed his 122-yard approach on the 10th to regain his advantage.
It was his second hole-out of the week, after this spectacular (and strange) ace on Thursday:
6. The 2020 Ryder Cup picture is getting clearer.
It’s pretty obvious that Steve Stricker – in the captaincy pipeline, beloved in his home state of Wisconsin – will get the nod for the U.S. at Whistling Straits. There’s little debate on the other side, either, since Padraig Harrington has virtually no competition for the captaincy.
7. Lee Westwood said last week that he’s stepping aside for 2020 and focusing on the '22 matches at Rome. It was viewed as a selfless decision, but it’s also a smart one for his legacy: No European captain has lost at home since 1993, and the Europeans will once again be the favorites in Italy.
8. It was bad enough that the Americans got smoked at the Ryder Cup. Turns out, a few weeks later, that two of Europe’s leaders were also playing hurt.
First it was Francesco Molinari who revealed that he was dealing with a sore back for the final two days at Le Golf National. He joined Larry Nelson as the only players to go 5-0, but he said that the day after the Ryder Cup he was so sore that he couldn’t bend over to tie his shoelaces.
Then it was Henrik Stenson who said that his bum elbow was worse than he initially led on. His elbow has plagued him for months, ever since the U.S. Open, but last week he underwent a “minor” procedure to alleviate some of the discomfort. He, of course, won both of his team matches with Justin Rose and then won his singles match, too.
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I had a minor procedure on my elbow yesterday. It all went really well but unfortunately I will not be able to play the WGC-HSBC Champions later this month. I hate to miss it but wish everyone involved a great event and look forward to playing there next year! (Guess which picture is before procedure....) H
9. The Tiger-Phil match is starting to look like an outright disaster.
Reports surfaced last week that, to the surprise of no one, fans won’t be allowed on-site at ultra-private Shadow Creek. Logistics were always going to be an issue there, and now the showdown will be limited to a few VIPs and sponsors.
So, to recap, this duel that is probably a decade too late won't have many people around the tees and greens ... won't have two mega-millionaires putting up their own cash ... won't be played under the lights in Vegas ... and won't have as many viewers, since it'll be on pay-per-view.
Hey, we could be wrong, but here’s thinking the organizers will be disappointed by just how few people tune in for this.
My word, this was horrible, which was probably the point.
But putting the Bash Bros together in a cheesy video isn’t going to convince anyone that there wasn’t a dust-up at the Ryder Cup in Paris. Jim Furyk already confirmed The Telegraph's reporting that there was some kind of incident, even if by now it's been entirely overblown.
This week's award winners ...
Oldie But Goodie: Bernhard Langer. He may not have been as dominating as we’re used to, but Langer’s runaway victory at the SAS Championship gave him the points lead heading into the Champions Tour’s three-tournament playoff series.
All Works Out: Marc Leishman. Before he won in Malaysia, Leishman booked plane tickets to Maui for the first week of 2019 – assuming that he’ll either be there playing in the Tournament of Champions (for which he had not yet qualified) or enjoying a family vacation. Turns out it’s the former now.
Who Wants to Ball?: Steph Curry event. The Warriors star is reportedly on the verge of finalizing a Bay Area event that would appear in the early part of the 2019-20 Tour schedule. That should attract more stars to show up than the season opener at Greenbrier.
Twice As Nice: In Gee Chun. A week after helping lead the Korean team to the International Crown title at home, Chun closed with a final-round 66 to win the Hana Bank for her first non-major LPGA title (and third overall).
Thanks, Mom!: Eddie Pepperell. As he walked to the 10th tee in the final round, his mom gave him a pair of mittens to deal with the cool temperatures. Pepperell proceed to hole his second shot.
Will This Suffice, Commish?: Jordan Spieth. The Golden Child ran afoul of Tour rules when he failed to play either 25 events or commit to a new tournament last season, so he’s getting out ahead of the game this season by committing to the Shriners event in Vegas in early November. It's the first domestic fall event that he's ever played. Smart.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Ryan Moore. A runner-up a week earlier in Napa, he usually tears up the limited-field, guaranteed-cash event in Malaysia. Instead, he appeared out of gas, finishing 66th out of 78 players. Sigh.