Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

Getty Images

Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

Getty Images

Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

Getty Images

McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”