Monday Scramble: Spieth makes it reign with cup win

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 28, 2015, 4:30 pm

Jordan Spieth ties a bow on his epic season, the Player of the Year vote gets decidedly easier, Henrik Stenson drops a $1 million putt, and Rory McIlroy talks money and more in this week's bonus edition of the Monday Scramble: 

The FedEx Cup Playoffs finally offered a satisfying conclusion to a season.

Spieth’s four-shot victory at the Tour Championship was the exclamation point that his monster season so richly deserved.

Not since 2009 has the FedEx Cup gone to the most deserving player. Since the points reset was instituted a year later, the “season-long title” has repeatedly gone to the guy who got the hottest at the right time, whether it was Bill Haas or Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson or Billy Horschel. 

Not this year. A relative afterthought during these playoffs because of middling results and Jason Day’s remarkable play, Spieth approached the Tour Championship as if it were a major. He was the first player on the range Monday morning at East Lake. He arrived three hours before his tee times to grind on the practice green. He chatted up his ball like it were one of his high school buddies from Dallas. And, most appropriately, he kept pouring in 20-foot putts, the defining characteristic of his major performances this year. 

All along Spieth knew that the playoffs would come down to this week, that it was his only chance to add to what was already the best year in golf. He became the youngest player since 1922 to win multiple majors, he had a share of the Open lead with two holes to play at St. Andrews and he finished second at Whistling Straits with a 72-hole total that would have won all but three PGAs outright since 1958. It was only fitting that he snagged the Tour’s biggest prize, too.

This year, at least, it felt like a proper season finale. 

1. Talk about a perfect week at East Lake for Jordan Spieth:

  • He won the Tour Championship.
  • He captured the FedEx Cup.
  • He returned to No. 1 in the world.
  • He clinched the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average (68.911).
  • He became the first $12 million man in golf ($12,030,465).
  • He sealed Player of the Year. 

2. This was, quite clearly, the best FedEx Cup Playoff run in the nine-year history of the series: Two Jason Day victories, with Rickie Fowler and Spieth titles mixed in, too. All three players are ranked inside the top four in the world ranking. 

The playoffs are far from perfect, from the post-Labor Day finish to the possibility that Stenson could have walked away with the big prize without having won a tournament this season. But this year, they delivered the goods with four big-time performances from four big-time players.

3. Spieth didn’t have his best stuff during these playoffs, not by a long shot, but once again, with the world watching, he poured in putts from everywhere to score another big win.

Spieth made more than 400 feet worth of putts at East Lake – by far the most in the field. Around the turn in the final round, he drained a 20-footer and a demoralizing 45-footer for birdie to match close-range looks from Stenson.

For the week, he led the 28-player field in strokes gained-putting, one-putt percentage, proximity around the green with chip shots and scrambling

“Just an exhibition on the greens, to be honest,” Stenson would say later. “His putting and mental focus is the best in the world. It’s hard to argue that.”

4. On Sunday night, after earning $11.44 million, Spieth touched one of the themes of this season: The power of the team. From the caddie to the swing coach to the physical trainer to the manager, the world’s best players no longer can do it alone.

After a $22 million season, Spieth said “it allows me to take care of the people that have given me this position and allowed this to happen. Like I always say, it’s a team effort. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into it when we’re home, when we’re in the early stages and on the course here.”

5. Here's a telling stat from the Golf Channel research department: Spieth’s victory at East Lake was the 24th title by a player in their 20s this season on the PGA Tour.

So, no, this wasn’t just a youth movement in 2014-15. It was a hostile takeover. 

6. By any measure, Day enjoyed a breakout year. Included in his five-win campaign were a major and four titles in a six-event stretch. It’s only the third time in the last 50 years that multiple players had five or more wins in the same season.

But Day’s only shot at Player of the Year was to win the Tour Championship. That, and that alone, might have been enough to steal a handful of votes. Even Day conceded this.

Leading into East Lake, it was a worthwhile discussion, not debate. Spieth provided an emphatic answer.

Here’s how they matched up at season’s end:

  • Wins: 5 apiece
  • Majors: Spieth 2, Day 1
  • Top-10s: Spieth 15, Day 11
  • Missed cuts: Spieth 4, Day 2
  • Earnings: Spieth $12,030,465, Day $9,403,330
  • FedEx Cup rank: Spieth 1, Day 3
  • Scoring average: Spieth 68.911, Day 69.161
  • Major performance: Spieth 1-1-4-2, Day 28-9-4-1

7. The No. 1 ranking changed hands for the sixth time in as many weeks – a first in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking.

But here's a question: Does it really matter who holds the top spot at the end of the year? 

Now that they've all been No. 1, the weekly projections and scenarios feel hollow. 

What matters is that the game is in an unbelievably strong position, with three stars who are young, wildly talented, ambitious, well-spoken and well-liked among their peers. As fans of the game, we are #Blessed.

8. Not all playoff runners-up are created equal.

Stenson finished second for the third time in four postseason starts, but the 57-footer that he dropped on the 18th green Sunday was a $1 million putt.

By holing his longest putt of the season, finishing at 5 under and tying for second in the Tour Championship, Stenson bumped Day out of the No. 2 spot in the FedEx Cup standings. That was the difference between a $2 million and $3 million bonus payout. If nothing else, it should help ease the sting of his embarrassing 71st-hole shank.

9. It's still unclear whether Jim Furyk (wrist) will be fit enough to play in next week's Presidents Cup. He withdrew from the Tour Championship and said in a statement that he was "placing all of my efforts on being healthy and ready" for South Korea. 

About the only American reserve who has shown a pulse in recent weeks is J.B. Holmes, who chased his T-4 at the BMW with another top-10 at East Lake. It was the first time he posted back-to-back top-10s since February. Captain Jay Haas will be able to pick another player if Furyk can't go, and Holmes, remember, was No. 12 on the points list when the team was finalized. 

10. Justin Rose’s performances at East Lake the last four years: 2-6-T4-T2. His closing 66 was his third in the last two years there.

Rose is but another player whose solid play this summer won’t be fully appreciated because of his more heralded peers. The tidy Englishman doesn’t have a win since New Orleans in April, but he closed out his season with seven top-20s in his last eight starts. 

11. The final FedEx Cup points list looked pretty standard until you got to the bottom of the top 10: Danny Lee grabbed the No. 9 spot (after a runner-up at the Tour Championship) and Charley Hoffman was 10th.

Since his breakthrough win at The Greenbrier, Lee added four top-10s and saw his world ranking climb from No. 158 to No. 36.

Hoffman, meanwhile, had a win, two runners-up, and four other top-10s in a season in which he earned nearly $1.5 million more than his previous best season (2010). His FedEx Cup progression over the past four years: 69-61-53-10.

Rory McIlroy made bigger news last week for what he said in the press tent than on the course.

Here was the full exchange:

Question: Do you have a grand plan as to what you would do if you walked away with $11.44 million on Sunday?

Answer: No. Luckily, that amount of money doesn’t sort of mean much to me anymore. So, no. It will go in the bank and if I want to buy something nice, I will. I mean, like it’s nice to think that you could win $10 million this week, but that’s not what excites me.

McIlroy was crushed on social media and in comment boards for showing signs of Spoiled Athlete Syndrome. A $11.44 million paycheck wouldn't faze you? Not surprisingly, that didn't sit well with the 9-to-5ers. 

Yet instead of criticizing McIlroy, we should be applauding him for his brutal honesty.

After all, he's right on both accounts: (1) The FedEx Cup IS a 30-man cash grab, and it remains to be seen how much longer these bonuses will entice the game's elite; and (2) the 26-year-old has already eclipsed $28 million in career on-course earnings. A few years ago, he inked a huge endorsement deal (upwards of $200 million) with Nike, and he has other lucrative contracts with Bose and Omega. Money isn’t what motivates him; he's already fabulously wealthy.

He is playing for the titles, the prestige, the history. The cash is merely a very welcome byproduct. 

Jordan Spieth earned $3,623 per shot this season. Please try to keep down your lunch. 

Friendly reminder that the new PGA Tour season begins in 17 days. 

Even more proof the Tour is trending young, really young: After Furyk’s withdrawal, Zach Johnson, at age 39, was the oldest player in the field at the Tour Championship.

Don’t feel too bad for Furyk or the week’s other withdrawal, Louis Oosthuizen. They each received a last-place, unofficial paycheck of $132,000.

Andrew Loupe, one of the game's longest hitters, locked up his PGA Tour card with a victory at the Tour's Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship. Two years ago, he averaged – averaged! – 315.2 yards per pop off the tee. 

• Remember how good Jimmy Walker looked in the spring? Since his win at the Valero Texas Open, he posted only one other top-10 in his next 15 starts. The reason? Well, it wasn’t his putter – he finished the season No. 2 in strokes gained-putting. He was outside the top 100 in driving accuracy and greens hit.

The worst break of the week goes to Chris Wood, who saw this putt drop (and then rim out) at the European Open: 

Derek Ernst’s fifth-place finish at the third leg of the Tour Finals was his first top-10 anywhere since winning the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship.

In his final PGA Tour event before reporting for military service in South Korea, Sang-Moon Bae closed with 69 and tied for 18th at the Tour Championship. Bae, 29, who will also play in next week's Presidents Cup, will have full status on Tour when he returns from 21 months of service.

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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”