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Monday Scramble: The kids are all right

By Ryan LavnerOctober 2, 2017, 3:10 pm

The United States destroys the Internationals, the Presidents Cup needs tweaking, Tiger Woods embraces his new role, Rory McIlroy nearly keeps his streak alive and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

So emphatic was the Americans’ performance at the Presidents Cup that it threatened to render the event insignificant.

The final score was 19-11, and it wasn’t even that close.

Save for a sloppy Sunday singles session – predictable, given the U.S. team’s monster lead – the Americans were nearly perfect during the competition at Liberty National.

They continued to build off the momentum they started at Hazeltine. Steve Stricker solidified his bid for the 2020 Ryder Cup captaincy. And old partnerships continued to thrive (Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed), while new ones emerged (Justin Thomas-Rickie Fowler).

The result was total domination, a four-day showcase that lacked any competitive drama.

Not that the Americans were complaining.

1. Bad news for the Americans’ future Presidents and Ryder Cup opponents: This group looks built to last.

Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger all are 33 or younger.

The core of this U.S. team should be a force for the next decade … and Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein, Ollie Schniederjans (and maybe Xander Schauffele) are all in the pipeline.

2. The Internationals needed to win the singles session (7 ½ to 4 ½) just to avoid what would have been the worst loss in Presidents Cup history.

Instead, it wound up as the third-most lopsided result:

• 2000: 21 ½ to 10 ½ (U.S.)

• 1998: 20 ½ to 11 ½ (Internationals)

• 1994/2017: 8-point margin of victory

3. It’s hard to pick an MVP from the American squad; there were several to choose from (click here for U.S. report cards). Dustin Johnson was the only player to appear in all five matches and not suffer a loss, as the world No. 1 went 4-0-1. Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson both went 3-0-1. (Speaking of Lefty: Since he called out 2014 Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson at Gleneagles, he has gone 8-1-3. He welcomed the pressure and scrutiny ... and then delivered.)

Louis Oosthuizen was the only player on the International side that put three points on the board in the losing effort (click here for International report cards). Seven U.S. players earned at least three points.

The biggest disappointments? Captain’s pick Charley Hoffman was the only player on the U.S. side with a losing record (1-2), though both of those narrow losses went down to the final two holes.

Not surprisingly, the International side was littered with guys who failed to show up on the big stage. Captain’s pick Emiliano Grillo, who has struggled mightily during the second half of the season, went 0-3. Adam Hadwin only earned a half point (0-2-1). Marc Leishman, who won one playoff event and nearly took another, went 0-3-2.

4. But the biggest difference between the two teams this year was the performance of their best players. While DJ, Spieth and Thomas went 10-2-3, the Internationals’ top three players threw up a 2-8-4 record. If that trend continues, it won’t matter the format or how many points are available. They're still going to get smoked.

5. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has a lot on his plate, but one of his top priorities should be to fix this competition.

Never have there been more calls to overhaul the Presidents Cup, and for good reason. The Americans’ record in the biennial event is now 10-1-1. This is not a good or compelling product.

6. Problem is, the solutions aren’t so simple.

Monahan’s predecessor, Tim Finchem, always resisted tweaking the format, finally reducing the number of available points to 30 before the 2015 matches. It still wasn’t enough. Not only does the event not need to be spread out over four days – the Tour seems obsessed with differentiating the Ryder and Presidents cups – but 30 points clearly still puts the weaker International squad at a disadvantage.

Team USA will argue against any format change, and they should – as currently constructed, the Presidents Cup presents a perfect opportunity to reinforce the concepts of the Ryder Cup committee, try out new partnerships and build momentum for the future. Why should they be penalized for playing better golf?

But after this blowout, and the lack of interest over the weekend, Monahan and Co. will have no choice but to make a change, for the sake of the PGA Tour.

7. Ernie Els, who likely will take over the International team in 2019, said Sunday that the points reduction should go even further in hopes that it will negate some of the Americans’ depth. He also wants his side to take greater ownership, breaking away from the Tour rules in terms of the selection process.

“We just want to feel that we are being treated fairly and that we get something going our way a little bit,” he said. “The future of the cup is important. We want to have it as competitive as we can. … We have to go back to the drawing board.”

8. The belief here is that the format should be blown up completely.

Usually, these types of results are cyclical, but there have now been 12 Presidents Cups. When the event heads to Royal Melbourne in 2019, the Internationals will be 21 years removed from their last victory.

This is not a small sample size. They are unable to make this a close competition.

The Tour should try something totally different. Golf already has one pressure-cooker at the end of a long season, so embrace the exhibition aspect. Introduce a scramble session. Make it a co-ed event. Combine it with the Tour Championship and $10 million payout. Do something different.

9. Tiger Woods returned to public view last week at the Presidents Cup, and two things stood out:

1.) He is not close to returning. Though he looks fit and healthy – he said he has been working out twice a day – Woods still can only hit 60-yard wedge shots, per doctor’s orders. It remains to be seen when – or if – he’ll be given the green light to start hitting full shots, and he acknowledged a scenario in which he might not return to competition: “I don’t know what the future holds for me.”

2.) If he can’t (or doesn’t want to) play again, one thing is clear: He would be an incredible performance coach. He is revered by all of the game’s young stars. He has a brilliant golf mind. And he clearly needs something to occupy his time, as evidenced by his all-in approach to the past two team competitions. Not only would it keep him involved in the game, but it also would assuage his ego and allow him to advise and mentor as he saw fit. He could pick and choose his clients – J-Day, Rickie, JT and P-Reed all seem like a logical starting place – and help them maximize their potential.

Everyone wants Woods to play golf again – he took the game to heights never before seen. But wouldn't it be fun to watch that next phase of his career?

10. The LPGA just can’t get it right.

Two weeks after prematurely shortening the Evian, the fifth major of the year, to 54 holes and making the playoff participates compete in wind, rain and hail, the tour sent the players out into dangerous weather conditions at the New Zealand Open.

Belen Mozo said the players don’t have a say and are “like sheep.” Brittany Lincicome called it a “freaking joke.” Danielle Kang tweeted that she watched fans “get blown over and hit by umbrellas.”

Young Canadian star Brooke Henderson eventually earned her fifth LPGA title, and second this season.

11. Why hello, Rory. Over the weekend at the British Masters, he shot 64-63 and came up three shots shy of first-time winner Paul Dunne, who closed with 61.

McIlroy's 13-under weekend was the lowest finishing stretch of his career.

This week’s Dunhill Links is McIlroy’s final chance to win an event this year. He has won at least one event every year since 2008. 

12. Ah, yes, it was only a matter of time before the rabbit-eared Ian Poulter weighed in on the relaxed rules allowing spectators to take photos and videos of players during competition.

After a quick-fingered fan distracted Poulter during the British Masters, leading to a water ball, the Englishman sounded off on the new tournament trend, telling reporters: “We’ve allowed them all to take pictures and videos and we tell them to put them on silent and it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work! It doesn’t work! You get distracted on the wrong hole at the wrong time and it’s extremely penal. It’s really f---ing annoying.”

You know you're 47 when ... you nearly crop yourself out of an epic selfie, with former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama:

This week's award winners ... 

Bizarro World: Tiger and Phil. Bros.

Break of the Week: Paul Dunne. Trying to hold off McIlroy down the stretch, Dunne’s wedge shot on 11 landed on the back fringe, but his ball sucked back off a sprinkler head, to 3 feet, setting up another birdie.  

Demons Buried?: Anirban Lahiri. The controversial wildcard pick went 1-1-1 for captain Nick Price, but he said emphatically, after a Saturday fourballs win and a halved singles match that, “I’ve well and truly buried the demons from South Korea,” when he missed a 4-footer to tie the overall match. Hmmm … 

Moment of the Week: Jordan Spieth singing. This is amazing.

Hit of the Week: Charley Hoffman. He delivered a bigger blow to an American than anyone on the International side.

Welcome to the Tour, Rook: graduates. With the Tour Championship pushed to a Monday finish, a few dozen players will be rolling into Napa, Calif., will little rest and prep before the season opener. Good luck. 

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've get experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

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Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"I think I've won and lost actually from four ahead, so I've got experience both ways," Rose said. "Just shows you can't get ahead of yourself.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."

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Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round four behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a closing birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71.