Monday Scramble: DJ dominates, picks are made

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 12, 2016, 6:00 pm

The U.S. Ryder Cup team takes shape, Dustin Johnson puts on a clinic, Tiger Woods signs up for three events, the FedEx Cup season nears an end and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Two weeks ago, when Darren Clarke announced his three captain’s picks, it was clear that he had a number of solid options at his disposal and left out a few deserving players. (Hello, Russell Knox.) You don’t get that same sense with Davis Love III’s first round of selections.

Though there was little need to justify Clarke’s three selections – a grizzled veteran, a former world No. 1 with big-game experience and a three-time winner in the past year – Love’s first three choices Monday required at least some defending. That’s not his fault, of course – the options were uninspiring. 

Matt Kuchar has had a solid season, but he hasn’t won in a year and a half. J.B. Holmes was 10th in points and has played well in spurts this year, but he’s also a below-average iron player and putter. And Rickie Fowler, well, he’s failed to back up his breakthrough year and has just one top-20 in his last seven starts. 

The good news for the Americans is that they still should win at Hazeltine – their automatic qualifiers are better, and the home-course advantage is significant – which would make all of the hand-wringing over these picks a moot point.

1. Fowler, in particular, put Love in an uncomfortable position. Anybody who’s watched golf over the past three years assumed that Fowler would be on the team, but frankly, over the past several months, he’s done little to warrant a spot. Even when he was on the verge of securing an automatic berth, he stumbled, shooting 39 on the back nine to crash out of the lead at The Barclays. Over the past two weeks, gassed, he failed to crack the top 45 and didn’t even qualify for the Tour Championship.

"We found no weaknesses in his game," Love said. "He's a good teammate and confident on a big stage." 

2. The fourth and final pick will be made during halftime of NBC’s Sunday Night Football game, following the Tour Championship. You’d think Love would want to make a big splash with that announcement – an avoid the here-we-go-again drama that accompanies a Jim Furyk pick – but it’s possible that he could roll with the hot hand, if Justin Thomas or Daniel Berger, for instance, were able to add to their résumé and win at East Lake.  

3. That’s why next week is shaping up to be a big spot for Bubba Watson. 

At No. 7 in the world, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to be left off a Ryder Cup team – Paul Casey was No. 8 in 2010 – but it would send a larger message.

With a renewed focus on team building and inclusivity, Love and Co. would essentially be telling Watson that he’s not well-liked by his peers and difficult to partner with. There's also his recent form (no top-10s in six months) and Ryder Cup record, which includes an 0-3 mark in singles. 

“Hopefully he looks at the world ranking and sees I’m pretty decent,” Watson said.

Problem is, that might not be enough. 

4. Those hoping for a new-look Ryder Cup team in 2016 surely must be disappointed by this latest news. Brooks Koepka remains the only newcomer to the squad; since 1927, only one U.S. team has had just a single rookie on the team. Of course, that was in 1999, when the Americans staged an improbable rally and won. 

Why is this important?

Because since 2010, rookies are 22-17-9. The veterans over that same span? 31-41-11. 

5. Expanded on these thoughts here, but there’s no one in golf who elicits the same kind of hopeless how-are-we-going-to-beat-this-guy? player comments as Johnson. His skill set is unmatched, and with his improved wedge play (he’s fifth on Tour in proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards) he’s virtually unbeatable when he’s on form.

Paul Casey shot 20 under par at Crooked Stick – a total that would have been good enough to win or force a playoff in all but five events this season – but still finished three shots behind. He was asked afterward what it would take to get over the hump.

He nodded at DJ. “Having him not in the field?” 

6. Johnson likely wrapped up the PGA Tour Player of the Year award on Sunday, at least according to a very unofficial poll of a few players.

DJ now has three victories this season, same as world No. 1 Jason Day, but counts a major among that total. (And, yes, that’s a very big deal.) He also has three more top-10s on Tour (14) than any other player, while leading the race for the Vardon Trophy, for the lowest adjusted scoring average (69.14). Sure, Day might steal a few votes if he can win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, but it’s clear after the BMW that Johnson has had the more consistently excellent season.  

7. Speaking of Day, his status for the season finale is in question after withdrawing from the BMW Championship because of a back injury.

Officially, it’s a pinched joint capsule in his lower back, but the discomfort is in a similar area to the spot that nearly led to him to withdrawing from the WGC-Match Play. (Instead, of course, he went on to win.) At the BMW, Day had shown no previous signs that he was ailing and injured himself when he bent down to put his tee in the ground. It’s yet another reminder of how this chronic back condition – he has a constant maintenance program – will continue to trail Day for as long as he swings with such a powerful but violent motion.  

8. In a move that apparently didn’t surprise many Tour players, Woods announced last week that he hopes to play in three events before the end of the year, beginning with the Oct. 13-16 Safeway Open.

The key word there: "hopes". 

There is still some doubt whether Woods will be able to tee it up in Napa. He is only four weeks away from the start of the season opener (Ryder Cup week will be a waste, preparation-wise), and it’s possible that he could suffer a physical setback when he ramps up his workload in anticipation of his return. 

Because there is more to this comeback than just being able to hit quality golf shots under tournament conditions – he has to play seven rounds (in theory), walk about 50 miles, practice for an hour each day and then recover quick enough to play again in roughly 12 hours. It’s fair to wonder whether Woods has put his back (which has required three procedures since April 2014) under that type of strain.

9. In Woods’ statement, there was a sense that he was already setting the stage for lowered expectations.

A nice thought, but sadly, it’s unrealistic. Everything with Woods is bigger and bolder – the attention, the scrutiny, the takes.

If Woods played baseball, he’d have the benefit of a minor-league rehab assignment. He could get in his reps, play with little fanfare and return to the big leagues when he was deemed ready.

There is no such system in golf, however, and especially not for a global superstar like Woods. Even if he somehow wanted a low-key return, in a Tour event, it'd become one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

From his first tee shot to his final putt (whether that’s on Friday or Sunday), his performance will be dissected in myriad ways, every swing subject to slow-motion analysis. It’s wildly unfair, of course, but Rory McIlroy put it best: “He’s definitely a victim of his own success.”

10. Maybe it’s because he’s bored without tournament competition, or perhaps he’s simply enjoying the tactical aspects of his new role, but apparently Woods has been all in as a Ryder Cup vice captain.

Phil Mickelson said that not only has Woods been involved with all of the decision-making regarding the U.S. team, but he was blown away by how detail-oriented Woods has been with the pairings and lineups. “He has got us a really good, solid game plan that is easy to buy into and get behind,” Mickelson said. “I’m very impressed.” 

11. Last week, McIlroy was asked about the fact that the European Ryder Cup team will head into Hazeltine without Knox and Casey, both of whom are ranked inside the top 20 in the world. 

Though Knox was passed over in favor of Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters, Casey ruled himself out of consideration, after declining to pursue European Tour membership this season to spend more time with his family here in the States.

Knox and Casey’s world ranking is better than seven members of the European team, and few players in the world are performing better at the moment than the Englishman, who now has back-to-back runners-up in the playoffs. 

“I’ve always said it should be the best 12 Europeans regardless of whether they’re a member of a tour or not,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s the hard thing.”

Then again, it’s hard to criticize the Europeans here: They’ve won eight of the past 10 cups for a reason.  

12. The BMW Championship remains the most volatile but confusing event in the playoffs. After each round, players were asked about their position in the projected FedEx Cup standings, and each time, as if on cue, they responded that because it changes so much, they’re better off keeping their head down, playing as well as they can and seeing how it all stacks up at the end.

As much as the Tour wanted to create a dynamic where there are multiple races to follow – the tournament title, the top five and the top 30! – it’s terrible for fans on-site and mostly a made-for-TV event, nothing more. 

“On TV, you can tell,” Fowler said, “but as far as spectating, I’m sure it’s tough to follow and understand the points system.” 

13. Now that Casey is No. 5 in points, there is a scenario (however unlikely) that he could win the whole FedEx Cup without winning a tournament this season. It’d require the four players ahead of him – DJ, P-Reed, Scott and J-Day – to play poorly at East Lake, but it’s certainly possible.  

If you want the FedEx Cup to be blown up, this is the scenario you've been waiting for. 

14. Unable to secure his card during the regular season, Bryson DeChambeau made sure that his stay in the minors wouldn’t be long.

One of the game’s most eccentric characters won his first pro event when he defeated Andres Gonzales in a playoff at the Tour Finals opener. With the victory, DeChambeau clinched his card for next season. He was in the field after earning enough non-member points on Tour to finish inside the top 200.

Now that some of his quirky appeal has worn off, it’ll be time for DeChambeau to deliver in what will be a stacked rookie class, with Jon Rahm, Ollie Schniederjans, Wesley Bryan, Trey Mullinax and more. 

If you've ever listened to a live news conference, then you know that some of the questions posed to athletes can be a bit odd. 

Hey, I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of interviewing awkwardness, where a question doesn’t come out right or is just downright confusing. 

But this right here … well, this was an all-timer.

It’s still not known which media member asked the following question to McIlroy after he won last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but the who isn’t nearly as important as the FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY?

Here it is, word for word:

Like the Eminem song, "Guess Who’s Back," is that how you feel?


To his credit, McIlroy didn’t simply stare at the interviewer and then walk away. “A little bit, yeah …” he started, before transitioning to how quickly fortunes can change in this game.

Not only is it a bizarre, 14-year-old reference, but that wasn’t even the name of the Eminem song! (Obviously, it’s “Without Me”.)

This is, without a doubt, the most head-scratching item to ever appear in this section. 

This week's award winners ... 

Game-Changer for College Golf?: Mike Small's new contract. The Illinois coach received an extension worth more than $2 million over the next six years. Small has transformed the Illini into a national powerhouse over the past few years, but he has yet to win a national title. You can bet other big-name coaches printed out that press release and placed it on their athletic directors' desk. More and more of these guys are about to get PAID. 

The Biggest Key for American Success at the Ryder Cup: The stars have to play better. Since 2004, the U.S. players ranked in the top 10 have gone 32-48-7, while Europe’s best have posted a 44-24-14 record. 

When You Must Finish But Are Running out of Daylight: UC Davis' Ben Corfee, who holed out on the final green thanks to cellphone flashlights. 

Just Blame Jason Day: DJ’s improved putting. Johnson was second last week in strokes gained-putting with a new wand, the TaylorMade Spider Limited putter, which he put in the bag after watching Day hole putt after putt during their recent rounds together. The only difference was that Johnson’s putter (it’s actually younger brother/caddie Austin’s) is black, not red. “I just didn’t want to use the same putter Jason was,” DJ said. “Like the same exact one.”

Maybe He Shouldn’t Have Done That … : Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard finished 32nd in FedEx Cup points, which makes you wonder whether he should have bashed his putter to the point that it became an unusable crooked stick during the third round. He shot 76-73 on the weekend to drop out of the top 30.  

The Most Kooch Thing Ever: Matt Kuchar couldn’t figure out Skype for the captain's pick announcement. And then he referred to the internet as the “worldwide web.” Golly gee!

Same Last Name, Same Hatless Success: Luke Schniederjans. The younger brother of PGA Tour-bound Ollie Schniederjans, the Georgia Tech freshman (who also plays without a hat) won in his first college start over the weekend. Free sunblock for everyone!

Most Bizarre Incident of the Week: Thomas Pieters. The newly named European Ryder Cup captain’s pick participated in an exhibition last Monday with Joost Luiten. During the event he was stung by a bee and suffered a “major allergic reaction,” causing him to withdraw from the KLM Open. Fortunately, Pieters is fine, but that didn’t stop Justin Rose (with whom Pieters shares a management company) from poking fun:

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: McIlroy. A week after his impressive victory in Boston, at a course that he owned in 2012, McIlroy was the consensus top pick for the BMW. Then he reverted to bad-putting Rory, finishing the week second-to-last on the greens (surrendering 9.96 shots!) and tying for 42nd. Sigh.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.