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Monday Scramble: Win and where

By Ryan LavnerOctober 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Justin Thomas wins again, Sergio Garcia shakes off his Masters hangover, Bernhard Langer eagles the last and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Now with five and a half weeks off, Thomas has plenty of time for reflection.

The most obvious question that will come to his mind: Now how am I going to back up THAT?

Thomas capped the best run of his career with a playoff victory Sunday at the lucrative CJ Cup. Over the past 52 weeks, he has six victories (including his first major), a FedExCup title, a Player of the Year trophy and more than $20 million in the bank.

Of the many goals that Thomas set for himself, both large and small, he met or exceeded almost all of them. Continuing to improve next season will be a challenge, because there isn’t as much ground to cover, but the 24-year-old showed that his ceiling is as high as anyone’s on Tour.

This is a break well deserved.

1. The par-5 18th hole at Nine Bridges will make course-architect snobs break out in hives, but it provided plenty of drama at the CJ Cup.

Both Thomas and Leishman went for the well-protected green in two shots during the playoff.

Leishman was unsuccessful, leading to a bogey but no regrets.

“If you go down,” he said, “you want to go down like that. I’d rather attack and try to take it. I would certainly sleep better at night just doing that.”

Even after seeing his opponent rinse his approach, Thomas didn’t back down, either.

“I didn’t travel all this way to make this a three-shot hole,” he said.

That led to a two-putt birdie and the victory. 

2. If Thomas was low on energy two weeks ago at the CIMB Classic, then he was really running on fumes in South Korea. And his patience was tested all week, when officials cut hole locations in difficult positions on Friday to protect par, and then the wind gusted (and swirled) to 30 mph over the weekend.

It’s a testament to his mental toughness that he was able to overcome a 71st-hole bogey and put away Leishman, who notched his third top-3 finish in his last four starts.

“I’m really tired and fatigued right now,” Thomas said. “I’m excited about getting home.”  

3. Here’s how the top of the world rankings look heading into the final World Golf Championships event of 2017:

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Justin Thomas
4. Hideki Matsuyama
5. Jon Rahm

It’s the first time since May 2010 that Americans hold down the top three spots. Back then, it was Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker – an average age of 39.2.

This trio? An average of 27.4. 

4. A reminder that last fall, Thomas was ranked 35th in the world.

So what changed?

Here are some of the areas in which Thomas has seen the most improvement, year over year:

Strokes gained-around the green (108th to 28th), putting (131st to 47th), approaches from 50-125 yards (71st to 1st) and 75-100 yards (156th to 13th).

If Thomas can improve his driving – even with his awesome length, he ranks only 32nd in strokes gained-off the tee – then his six-win 2017 might just be the beginning. 

5. No Ryder Cup points are available this fall, for the second consecutive Ryder Cup.

Though that’s unlikely to affect the status of a star like Thomas, it’s a potentially big deal for someone like Pat Perez, who won the CIMB and followed it up with a tie for fifth at the CJ Cup. 

6. Garcia’s Masters hangover is over, after the Spaniard served as both host and champion at the European Tour event at Valderrama hosted by his foundation.

Since his life-changing victory at Augusta, he managed only one top-10 in 10 PGA Tour starts, and his runner-up at the BMW International Open was his best showing worldwide.

A lot has been going on, of course. Garcia got married. He’s expecting his first child next spring. He adjusted to life as a major champion. And it was announced last week that he and longtime sponsor TaylorMade are parting ways.

Valderrama was the perfect landing spot for another Garcia reboot – he has finished in the top 5 in eight of 13 career appearances there.  

7. Interestingly, this was Garcia’s first three-win season since 2008.

He moved to 14 career titles on the European Tour, one clear of Rory McIlroy for the most among players currently under 40.

8. After wondering whether she would ever win again, Eun-Hee Ji snapped an eight-year winless drought by taking the Swinging Skirts – by six.

Now 31, Ji hadn’t won since the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.

Perhaps even more interesting was the brief reappearance in Taiwan of local hero Yani Tseng. Mired in a miserable slump, the former world No. 1 hasn’t won anywhere since 2012.

A strong final round briefly vaulted her inside the top 5, but she stumbled down the stretch and eventually tied for 17th – still one of her best results of the year.

“I feel the nerves and I feel the pressure,” she said, “but it was great pressure and good news. I haven’t had that for a while.” 

9. In the least surprising development of the week, Bernhard Langer won the PGA Tour Champions playoff opener, eagling the final hole and creating even more separation from Scott McCarron.

Though the field size is trimmed each week, like the FedExCup playoffs, the cut down from 72 to 54 players barely registered, seeing how those players have no chance to make any noise with Langer, McCarron, Kenny Perry and the rest of the senior stars monopolizing the top of the leaderboard.

Langer is on the verge of taking the money title for the ninth time in the past 10 years. 

It’s why we opined last week that the senior circuit desperately needs a match-play finale to liven up its finishing kick.

10. About the only thing Langer has left to accomplish in senior golf is the record for the most victories all time.

With title No. 35, and his sixth this year, he’s now only 10 back of Hale Irwin’s mark.

Barring an injury, Langer could eclipse that record in 2019, when he’d be 62. Irwin was 61 when he earned his final senior victory.

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are longtime friends. This was established a few years ago, when Thomas joined a Tour on which Spieth had already made his mark.   

Well, for some reason, this storyline is still a thing, even after Thomas finally moved out of Spieth’s considerable shadow, winning the PGA Championship, the FedExCup and Player of the Year.

This was a real question posed to Thomas on Saturday night (emphasis is mine): Jason Day mentioned that he has never seen winds like this before. Are you used to such windy conditions? If you were to give Jordan Spieth any advice playing on this course, what would you say?

Unfortunately, Thomas (and, now, Spieth, to some extent) are used to such ridiculous queries. In his presser, Thomas shrugged it off and talked about the difficult conditions.

Well, the same reporter (we think) went back to the well on Sunday night, after Thomas prevailed in a playoff.

If you were to come back next year, would you convince your good friend Jordan Spieth to come with you?

Not only was that question insulting – as if Thomas’ victory, and presence, wasn’t enough for the reporter – it was absurd.

Thomas handled it perfectly: “I don’t care what he does.”


This week's award winners ... 

See You Next Year: Paula Creamer. The 31-year-old recently underwent surgery on her ailing left wrist, ending her season. Winless since 2014, she faces an uphill climb when she returns to competition.

What a Mess: KLPGA. A pair of players received two-shot penalties after they picked up their ball on what they thought was the green, and it was later determined that four other players had done that, too. Several players threatened to withdraw out of protest, the KLPGA wiped out all scores for the first round, and the head rules official resigned.  

Mission Accomplished: Leona Maguire. Needing to make the cut to earn Symetra Tour status for 2018, the top-ranked amateur in the world cruised at second stage of Q-School. She won’t even attempt to play the finals; she’ll return to Duke for the spring semester and complete her degree.

Presidential Company: Hideki Matsuyama. The world No. 4 is scheduled to play a round with Donald Trump when the president makes his first Asia trip next month, according to Bloomberg.

New Home: Barbasol Championship. Beginning this season, one of the Tour’s opposite-field events is relocating from Alabama to Kentucky. 

What Can't He Do?: Braden Thornberry. During the Ole Miss-Auburn game Saturday night, the reigning NCAA champion was asked to knock in a field goal using one of his irons. This is a lot harder than it looks!

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Tony Finau. His runner-up finish in Napa was his third consecutive top-10. But he just didn’t have it halfway around the world, backing up an opening 67 with three consecutive rounds of par or worse for a tie for 26th. Sigh.  

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Mann, LPGA HOFer, former tour president, dies at 77

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 4:46 pm

Carol Mann, an LPGA Hall of Famer, made a lasting impact on the women’s game beyond her 38 LPGA titles. She was a former tour president in the 1970s who helped develop the LPGA’s corporate structure.

Mann, 77, died in her home in Woodlands, Texas, on Monday.

She leaves a legacy as a player, teacher, TV broadcaster, writer and businesswoman.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann, who towered over the game as a physical presence at 6 feet 3 inches tall, was dominant in her prime. She won 10 LPGA titles in 1968 and claimed the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. She won eight titles in ’69. Her first LPGA title was a major championship, the 1964 Women’s Western Open. She also won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965.

As the LPGA’s president from 1973 to ’76, Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Mann and Volpe helped take the tour from a struggling business venture at the time to a more profitable one.

“It is always difficult to lose a member of your family,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “Carol Mann was a tremendous competitor, but an even  more amazing person.  She was special in every way, and she certainly left the game and the LPGA better than she found it. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

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Sponsored: Callaway's 'Insta Tips'

By Grill Room TeamMay 21, 2018, 4:35 pm

Want to improve your game? Want a quick lesson? And by quick, we mean, 5-10 seconds quick.

Joe Compitello, the director of instruction at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., teamed up with Callaway to provide a series of Insta Tips. These quick and easy lessons will help your game, from tee to green, and keep your attention.

Click here for the full series of videos and check out a few clips below:

Aaron Wise, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods Getty Images, @TGRLiveEvents

Monday Scramble: This is their jam

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 2:00 pm

Aaron Wise asserts himself, Trinity Forest draws mixed reviews, Tiger Woods hangs out in Vegas, and somebody punches somebody else - maybe. All that and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble.

Aaron Wise's learning curve lasted exactly 17 starts. That's how many events he had played as an official PGA Tour member before breaking through for his maiden win Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. A kid plenty ready for the moment, the 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion entered the final round tied for the lead and ran away from Marc Leishman with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch. Once firmly in control, Wise made eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse. Heady stuff for a 21-year-old.

You need look back only a couple weeks for evidence that Wise was ready for something like this. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship, he could have melted down on the 18th hole. With his ball sitting on a steep bank inside the hazard line, Wise thought about taking a drop next to the green but ultimately chose after minutes of indecision to play it where it was. And he whiffed. He went right under it. He thinned his next shot over the green and looked as though he was going to throw away three days of fabulous play all at once. Instead, he steeled himself and chipped in to save his bogey-5.

Although Wise couldn't run down Jason Day a day later, his tie for second played a vital role in propelling him to victory just two weeks later. Wise said he felt "oddly calm" in the final round and that his experience at Quail Hollow had filled him with the self-belief he needed to close out his first win.

Mark down Wise as yet another young force to be reckoned with, as if there was somehow a shortage of those on Tour.

1. Let's go to the golf course. The Nelson's move to Trinity Forest was met with plenty of skepticism from players, some of whom simply stayed away.

The event's OWGR winner's points and strength of field dropped to 34 and 178, respectively, from 50 and 335 one year ago. The Nelson's strength of field was the lowest for a PGA Tour event in 2018 (excluding the opposite-field Coarles) and looked more in line with what you might expect during the wraparound portion of the schedule.

It's certainly possible top players are taking a wait-and-see approach to the course, but if the Nelson does wind up sandwiched between the Wells Fargo and the PGA, Trinity Forest is not going to be any kind of warmup for a Bethpage Black or a Harding Park or an Oak Hill, not when Quail Hollow is a PGA Championship layout. 

2. And if players are waiting on positive reviews to lure them to a venue that bares little resemblance to any other course on the PGA Tour schedule, they're not going to hear anything positive from Matt Kuchar. Asked on Thursday about the layout, Kuchar answered, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” before adding, "I really liked Las Colinas. That place was great. I really, really enjoyed Las Colinas.” After missing the cut, Kuchar admitted his distaste for the layout negatively affected his play, leaving architecture enthusiasts surely enraged.

Objectively, Las Colinas was an immaculately conditioned TPC devoid of character, and Trinity Forest is a rugged, minimalist tract with so much character it could border on caricature under certain conditions. The two designs have nothing in common, and Tour types are generally resistant to change, a sentiment summed up well by Adam Scott: “Majorities just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play." On the plus side, Jordan Spieth, a Trinity member, said that many of the guys who did show up enjoyed the course more and more after each round. Architect Ben Crenshaw is hoping good word will spread. 

There's nothing wrong with Trinity Forest. It was actually nice to see something a little different on Tour. But the Nelson's place on the schedule may prove an obstacle to attracting the game's best regardless of where the event calls home.

3. As for the top talent who did show up, Spieth - say it with me now - was once again let down by his putter. The club that played such a pivotal role in his three major victories has abandoned him this season. Spieth entered the week second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 183rd in strokes gained: putting. When he walked off the final green Sunday at Trinity Forest he was third in the field in SG: off-the-tee, fourth in SG: tee-to-green, fourth in proximity to the hole and 72nd in SG: putting. Those numbers left him 12 shots behind young Mr. Wise.

Remember when Spieth was a 21-year-old dusting the best in the world? Those were the days.

In all seriousness, the putting will get better, and when he finally matches general competence on the greens with his elite ball-striking, he'll finally capture his first trophy of the season. Don't be surprised if it happens this week at Colonial in another hometown event, one he won in 2016.

4.The aforementioned Scott remains - by the slimmest of margins - unqualified for the U.S. Open. Needing to crack the Official World Golf Ranking's top 60, Scott appeared to have done enough when he closed a final-round 65 with a birdie to pull into a four-way tie for sixth. Unfortunately, just moments later, he'd drop into a three-way tie for ninth, missing out by a single shot. 

Scott has played the last 67 majors in a row, dating back to 2001. It's a streak bested by only Sergio Garcia. Having missed this week's cutoff, he'll need to either head to sectional qualifying on June 4 or be inside the top 60 on June 11.

5. I understand golf is different than basketball and football, but the concern over how gambling might negatively impact the game feels a little like pearl-clutching. Yes, some idiot with money on the line could yell in somebody's backswing on the 72nd hole. That absolutely could happen. And yet, somehow we survive every Open Championship and every other tournament played in countries that allow gambling.

Then again, fans outside the U.S. don't yell mashed potatoes or baba booey.

I take it all back. We've made a huge mistake.

6. You might not be familiar with the name Adrian Otaegui, but that could change in a hurry if he keeps up his current form. The 25-year-old Spaniard just backed up a runner-up at the Volvo China Open with a win at the Belgian Knockout.

He's finished in the top 20 in each of his last six European Tour starts and he hasn't finished worse than T-40 in nine events. Both of his wins in the last year have come via match play (or something close enough in the case of the Knockout). With the victory, Otaegui is now up to 77th in the world, making him the fourth-highest Spaniard behind Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, and Rafa Cabrera Bello. 

7. While we're on the subject of the Belgian Knockout, two notes about the format. First, credit again goes to Keith Pelley and company for being unafraid to try something other than 72 holes of stroke play.

The rechristened Belgian Open, which had been dormant since 2000, featured 36 holes of normal stroke play qualifying before giving way to nine-hole, head-to-head stroke play in the knockout rounds. Considering how divisive the WGC-Match Play's round-robin format has become, early-stage stroke play does seem like an easy enough solution when it comes to both cutting the field and protecting the game's biggest stars from a Day 1 exit.

8. For the second time in as many events, the LPGA shortened an event due to weather.

At least the circuit was able to finish three rounds this time. Two players actually got in 56 holes, with Ariya Jutanugarn defeating Nasa Kataoka in a playoff. The victory is Ariya's first of 2018, but the Jutanugarns' second, following Moriya's breakthrough last month in L.A.

9. The Most Interesting Man in the World, Miguel Angel Jimenez, captured his first senior major at the Regions Tradition, but how about Steve Stricker's start to his PGA Tour Champions career? He's gone T5-1-1-T2-T2. Look out, Langer.

Didn't mean to shortchange Jimenez there. Just figured this image summed up the moment.

10. It never ceases to be amazing, by the way, the fine line between the wilderness and a PGA Tour card. Michael Arnaud had made just one start this year, and he shot an 81. He made only two of five cuts on the Web all last year. On Tuesday, he was in Oklahoma preparing to play an Adams Tour event when he was informed that he had been moved up to first alternate at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. So he took his chances and raced to South Carolina. He was the very last man into the field. And now he's a winner, inside the top 25 on the money list. All it takes is one great week to rejuvenate a career. 

Our Ryan Lavner normally writes this column, but he's on NCAA duty the next couple weeks. That said, he is checking in with this story about an alleged fist fight at the Florida Mid-Am! Here's a little taste:

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

You know you want more. Click here.

This week's award winners ...

A master class in big timing: Hosting his annual Tiger Jam event at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Tiger Woods "challenged" World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a showdown, but rather than wait and see who won, Woods got up on the tee, unleashed a drive, and simply walked away, going full mic drop.

This may have been a savvy play by Tiger, considering Mullins won a WLD event last summer with a drive of 374 yards.

Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last: We compiled a photo gallery of some of Woods' best celebrity interactions at Tiger Jam over the years, but this image tops them all:

Who needs local knowledge? Tip of the cap to Hideki Matsuyama and his caddie for this read. "I think we start this a good 10 feet left, let it funnel right, and then it should take a hard left at the hole."

Kuchar should have just done that.

Belgian Wave: Is this the opposite of a Belgian Dip?

New rule: Backstopping is absolutely fine as long as we stop marking balls altogether.

And finally:

I like to think we have a lot in common, as I randomly pick up this column, quickly put it back down, and then try to (not-so) casually slip away. Cheers, buddy.

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What's in the bag: AT&T Byron Nelson winner Wise

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 1:52 pm

Aaron Wise won the AT&T Byron Nelson for his first PGA Tour victory. Here's a look inside the winner's bag.

Driver: Callaway Rogue (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Pro 75X shaft

Fairway woods: Callaway Rogue (15 degrees), with Fujikura ATMOS Black 8 X shaft

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (2), with KBS Tour prototype Hybrid shaft; Apex 16 (4), Apex MB (5-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (50, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Odyssey O-Works Red V-Line Fang CH

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X