The storylines are plentiful at the Tour Championship, In Gee Chun marches into the history books, Beef becomes a PGA Tour member and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble.
There will be a lot more on the line this week at East Lake than a FedEx Cup trophy and $10 million.
First, Dustin Johnson will have a chance to settle the Player of the Year debate with a win and/or the FedEx Cup title. Johnson appears to have the edge over world No. 1 Jason Day with a U.S. Open win, a WGC title at Firestone and a playoff win at the BMW. Plus, Johnson leads the Tour with 14 top-10s and the lowest scoring average.
Day, however, could tilt the argument toward his side with a win at the Tour Championship. He has three titles of his own, including a wire-to-wire win at The Players.
And then there will be plenty of drama after the FedEx Cup champion is crowned. Davis Love III will announce his final pick on NBC during halftime of Sunday Night Football.
World No. 7 Bubba Watson is (probably) the favorite, but Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Ryan Moore all have strong cases to make the U.S. team.
From a muddy picture, we'll finally find some clarity Sunday night.
1. In Gee Chun took the phrase “winning in style” to a whole new level Sunday at the Evian. First, she won her second major title by four strokes, joining fellow countrywoman Se Ri Pak as the only players to make their first two LPGA wins majors. Second, Chun finished 21 under par, breaking the record for the lowest 72-hole total in a men’s or woman’s major championship. She beat the women’s record by two strokes and topped Day (2015 PGA) and Henrik Stenson (2016 Open Championship) by one stroke.
Chun also continued the streak of South Korean women winning at least one major title to an impressive six years. South Koreans have also won 11 of the last 22 majors, and Inbee Park has a gold medal, too.
2. Chun can not only rest easy with a new trophy to add to her collection, but Sunday also allows her to completely move on from a bizarre incident earlier this season. In March, Ha Na Jang’s father lost control of his luggage on an escalator at the Singapore airport and his suitcase struck Chun. She admitted Sunday the incident had more of an impact on her than she initially let on. Chun missed a month with injuries to her back and pelvis, and the media attention the incident brought on Jang and Chun caused them both a lot of stress.
“It was an inner struggle,” Chun said Sunday. “I just had to keep it quiet inside, but I had to go through all those hard times, not being able to mention anything about my injury and my hurt and pain.”
3. For the second weekend in a row, an emerging star earned a PGA Tour card. Last week, Bryson DeChambeau won the first Web.com Tour Finals event in a playoff over Andres Gonzales. And on Sunday, Andrew “Beef” Johnston finished fourth to earn his card for the 2016-17 season. Johnston has become one of the breakout stars of the year after he said he was planning on getting “hammered” after winning the Spanish Open. He did. And then he tied for eighth at the Open. Beef has earned scores of fans along the way.
And now along with DeChambeau and Gonzales (half man, half amazing), PGA Tour fans will have three new players to root for next year who not only have colorful personalities, but also plenty of game.
4. Maybe it’s a perfect storm of fun personalities, but the Web.com Finals has been surprisingly entertaining this year. Like a lot of golf fans, I do miss the old Q-School, but there is no doubt the four-event series is a better product for TV. It may not be as intense as Q-School, but there is something on the line every weekend at a Web.com event, and that wasn't always used to be the case.
5. European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had to love what he saw at the Italian Open. Masters champion Danny Willett finished second and pushed winner Francesco Molinari the whole way. Outside a third-place finish at the BMW PGA, Willett hasn’t been in contention much since his win at Augusta. But a T-12 at the European Masters and a runner-up in Italy has Willett trending in the right direction ahead of Hazeltine.
6. Molinari’s win likely won’t be remembered as one of the better finishes of 2016, but it should be. There is always something compelling about watching someone try to win their national open. And with Willett applying the pressure, Molinari nearly folded. But he hit a spectacular recovery shot on 18, punching an iron around a tree and splitting two bunkers to reach the green in regulation. Molinari’s reaction after he holed the winning putt said it all about how much this victory meant.
7. Day’s health will once again be under the microscope this week. He withdrew during the final round of the BMW as a precautionary measure after experiencing back pain.
He also dealt with back pain at the WGC Match Play, when he was able to play through it and win. But this is certainly a troubling sign for a guy who is only 28 years old. Day doesn’t go half-speed on any shot, and it appears those violent swings are already catching up.
8. Something that should ease the pain is the new contract Day reportedly signed with Nike. Day will continue to use TaylorMade equipment, but he will be wearing a Nike swoosh. Nike announced last month is was getting out of the equipment business, but it would still focus on making apparel. By signing Day, Nike is making a statement that while it may not be designing drivers, it will still have a big presence in the game.
9. It’s time to do something I rarely do – disagree with Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus repeated his opinion this week that we’re making too big a deal about the Ryder Cup, and we should focus more on the spirit of the event and not who wins and loses.
Maybe the Golden Bear was right. Maybe the task force was overkill (OK, it was), but I think the teams have struck the right balance between fierce competition and sportsmanship. Yes, there will likely be some prickly moments between the teams next week, but by the end of the night there will also likely be some glorious social media posts after the two sides get together to celebrate another great Ryder Cup.
10. While Watson, Thomas, Berger and Moore are just a few of the names Love has to choose from Sunday night, don’t rule out Jim Furyk. Mr. 58 and the U.S. vice-captain was practicing over the weekend with the American squad at Hazeltine, according to Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte.
Love told Furyk not to put his clubs away after he failed to qualify for the last two playoff events, so he’s definitely still a contender for the final spot. But on a team with only one rookie, it seems logical Love would look to inject some youth on the U.S. team.
Golf’s version of Bigfoot was spotted not once but twice last week … Yes, it’s Anthony Kim!
The three-time Tour winner showed up Monday at a charity event in Plano, Texas, for former pro basketball player Nancy Lieberman and was seen again on Friday at an event for his alma mater, Oklahoma.
Kim has been battling injuries and recovering from surgeries for the better part of four years. In an interview last year, he didn't rule out a potential return to the PGA Tour. So here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see of the former Ryder Cup star.
This week's award winners ...
Best Way to Start Your Round: Jamie McLeary resumed his second round at the Italian Open on Saturday morning at the par-3 10th, and it only took one swing for him to have a very nice day. McLeary made a hole-in-one and won a brand new Mercedes. It just so happens his daughter has been asking for a convertible. Boom, done.
You’re Joking, Right? When asked how he would celebrate securing his PGA Tour card, Johnston smiled and said he might have “a few sodas.” He could only keep a semi-straight face for so long before saying, “Nah, there's going to be a few beers, man!''
Trash-Talking Advice From FLOTUS: Steph Curry admitted he lost a match to President Barack Obama, and the NBA star said the Commander-in-Chief’s trash talking got under his skin. Fortunately, Curry got some advice on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show” from First Lady Michelle Obama, who was co-hosting during Curry’s appearance.
The key, she said, was to go after the president’s ears by saying, "the shadow from your ears is really messing up my putt."
No, Beef, Don’t Do It!
Cheers. See u there https://t.co/8fsX79a5ta— Andrew'BEEF'Johnston (@BeefGolf) September 18, 2016