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Monday Scramble: Win-win for Thomas, Lewis

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 5, 2017, 3:00 pm

Justin Thomas wins a PGA Tour-best fifth title, Presidents Cup teams take shape, Stacy Lewis breaks her winless drought for Houston and more in this week's edition of the Monday (Tuesday?) Scramble:

The number of contenders for the PGA Tour Player of the Year award is narrowing.

Justin Thomas moved one step closer with a 63-66 finishing kick at the Dell Technologies Championship to win for the fifth time this season.

Tour players vote for the award, so it’s a bit of a guessing game, but common sense suggests that Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson will need to win the final two events of the season to steal Player of the Year from Thomas (though even that might not be enough).

A playoff victory was an important résumé-booster for Thomas, who already had a major, a 59, three other Tour titles and a record-breaking 63 at the U.S. Open.

The Year of JT continues. 


1. Maybe he didn’t have a run at the Grand Slam like Spieth in 2015, but Thomas is putting together one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory.

With this victory, he is now just the fourth player since 1960 to win five times, including a major, during a PGA Tour season. The others? Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods (twice) and Spieth.  

Spieth capped his memorable year in 2015 with a FedExCup title. Thomas is now No. 2 in the standings.  

2. How to win on the PGA Tour?

It’ll look a lot like Justin Thomas’ week at TPC Boston. In every facet of the game, he put on a clinic, finishing in the top 11 in strokes gained-off the tee, approach the green, around the green and putting. He missed 21 greens … and got up and down for par 20 times. 

3. The FedExCup has its faults, but there’s little doubt that the playoffs bring the best out of today’s stars.

Check out the caliber of players who have won the last 10 playoff events: Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Thomas.

Stout. 

4. Another week, another runner-up finish for Spieth.

After going out in 30, he carded three bogeys in the final seven holes and came up three shots short. But given his starting position, and his torrid start, this second-place showing was easier to stomach than the playoff opener at the Northern Trust, where he squandered a five-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.

“I’m not going to be as down on myself as I was last week,” he said. “I’m pleased with the way I finished off. [The putts] just didn’t quite go in.”  

And if there’s any consolation, he moved to No. 1 in the points standings, 27 points ahead of Thomas. Woods is the only player to win multiple cups. 

5. Like Spieth, the back nine featured plenty of surprises for Marc Leishman, too.

Out in 30, he moved two shots in front but bogeyed the first three holes on the back nine. He lost two more shots coming home, on 17 and 18, to come home in 40 and drop into solo third.

Those two miscues were worth $350,000 – and potentially much more in FedExCup bonuses. 

“It’s a disappointing end to the week,” he said, “but I can take a lot of positives out of it.” 



6. The rosters for the upcoming Presidents Cup are nearly set.

Three players on the U.S. side qualified for their first team competition: Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner and Kevin Chappell.

Another would-be first-timer, Charley Hoffman, got bumped from the 10th and final qualifying spot, but based on how close he came (he was clipped by less than a point) and his form this season, he’s a good bet for one of Steve Stricker’s captain’s picks.

The other? That is almost surely Phil Mickelson, especially after Lefty, who said he saw a doctor about his recent inability to focus, tied for sixth in Boston. This would be his 23rd consecutive team appearance.

Though it’d be nice to see Stricker go outside the box with these picks – Brian Harman would be a tough out, Tony Finau is perfect for fourballs, and Patrick Cantlay has been terrific in limited action this year – chances are he takes Hoffman and Mickelson.

7. How about the Internationals?

Adam Hadwin secured the 10th and final spot, but captain Nick Price has fewer appealing options than Stricker.

Much fewer.

Hideto Tanihara and Emiliano Grillo, Nos. 11 and 12 in points, respectively, have combined for one top-10 since May.

Haotong Li finished third in The Open, after a stellar final round, but he backed it up with consecutive missed cuts. Anirban Lahiri’s runner-up at Memorial was his only top-10 in a Tour event this year.  

No matter whom Price selects, the visitors will be a massive underdog at Liberty National.    

8. Among the players whose season ended last week in Boston, after failing to crack the top 70 in points:

  • Adam Scott
  • Bubba Watson (set for more than a four-month layoff)
  • Harold Varner III
  • Patrick Rodgers
  • Chris Stroud

The only players to move from outside to inside the top 70 in Boston were Rafa Cabrera Bello, Emiliano Grillo and Stewart Cink.

9. What seemed like a curious decision hasn’t paid off for McIlroy. Not yet, anyway.

Battling a nagging rib injury, McIlroy was a non-factor at the playoff opener, then missed the cut in his title defense at TPC Boston.

Afterward, he admitted: “I’m sort of waiting for the season to end and that’s reflected in the way I’m playing.”

His PGA Tour season could end in two weeks. At No. 51 in the standings, he needs a good performance at the BMW to return to the Tour Championship. 



10. And here we thought I.K. Kim would own the LPGA’s feel-good story of the year, winning the Women’s British Open five years after her short miss.

Sunday in Portland, Houstonian Stacy Lewis snapped a three-year winless drought and donated all of her $195,000 check to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

There is no cheering in the press tent, but it was hard not to pull for Lewis down the stretch. Not only was there the charitable angle – that was the kind of selfless gesture that has endeared Lewis to fans over the past couple of years. But there was the competitive part, too. No one has come closer more often over the past few years than Lewis, a former world No. 1 who has endured 12 runner-up finishes since her last victory, in June 2014.

Even she admitted afterward that she needed to relearn how to win.

“I’m excited to get the monkey off my back and know I can do it,” she said. “I can hit the shots when I need to, hole the putts when I need to. It’s nice to see yourself do that again.” 

11. Lewis got even more good news after her victory.

Two of Lewis’ sponsors stepped up in a big way, with KPMG matching Lewis’ donation and Marathon Petroleum kicking in another $1 million.

Lewis, who has lived in the Houston area since age 11, said her family’s home was spared from the disaster. 



12. Peter Uihlein is heading home.

The former American amateur star, who headed to Europe to travel the world and hone his game, earned his PGA Tour card in his first try, winning the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the first event in the Web.com Tour Finals.

At No. 89 in the world, Uihlein was the highest-ranked player in the field in Columbus. It took him six years – longer than Brooks Koepka – but like his South Florida pal, Uihlein showed that there’s more than one way to secure a Tour card.

"Obviously it's an unconventional route," Uihlein said, "but it’s something I would do over in a second, absolutely."


Tip of the cap, Kelly Kraft, because this is actually really hard to do – rinsing two shots, taking another penalty and three-putting from 5 ½ feet for a septuple-bogey 12. And most of the damage came from inside 160 yards!

Kraft was 10 over for the day when he eventually withdrew during the first round at TPC Boston, citing a foot injury that has bothered him for the past month. The WD ended his season.

Kraft will return next month at the season-opening Safeway Open. 

This week's award winners ... 


Commence Masters Watch 2018!: Tiger Woods. With his tweet last week that he’s been given the green light to start hitting pitch shots, yeah, you’re going to read a lot about his progress in the months leading up to the year’s first major.  

Why You Shouldn’t Break Your Putter on Anything But the 18th Hole: Sergio Garcia. After slamming his putter into a sprinkler head on the fourth hole, the Masters champion was left to putt with three clubs for the rest of the round (driver, fairway wood, 3-iron). Not surprisingly, he shot 4 over. 



Go Ahead and Try This One Again: TPC Boston’s par-4 12th. With a scoring average of 4.343, it played as the hardest hole all week. Architect Gil Hanse defended his work, which he should, but if players are going down an adjacent fairway to approach the green, well, it’s just not a good hole. 

Another of Justin Thomas’ Good Buddies: Tom Lovelady. Thomas’ current roommate and former teammate at Alabama is headed to the Tour after making birdie on the last and tying for third in the Web.com Tour Finals opener.  

Also Heading to the Big Leagues: Celine Boutier. A former Player of the Year at Duke, the 23-year-old won on the Symetra Tour for the second time this season to lock up an LPGA card for next year. 

Best Move of the Week: NBC cameraman. Zeroed in on Leishman in the hazard short of 18 green, the camera guy somehow got out of the way of this errant pitch. 


That’s How You Start a Season: Oklahoma State. The preseason No. 1 Cowboys shot 52 under (!) at Pebble Beach, with Hayden Wood and Texas Tech’s Hurly Long sharing medalist honors at 19 under (!), as Long shot a second-round 61 (!). 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Rory. The all-time earnings leader at TPC Boston, and the Tour’s leader in strokes gained-off the tee, he struggled with a two-way miss for two rounds and flamed out with a surprising missed cut. Sigh. 

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.