Monday Scramble: Plenty of drama at FedEx finale

By Ryan Reiterman September 18, 2016, 3:00 pm

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!

Getty Images

Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

Getty Images

Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Getty Images

After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

Getty Images

In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”