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Monday Scramble: Deal with it

By Will GrayOctober 30, 2017, 2:30 pm

Justin Rose rallies, Dustin Johnson collapses, Tiger Woods makes the rounds, a high-schooler gets edged out by a bylaw and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Rose left China with the trophy, but this will be remembered as the one that got away from Johnson.

The world No. 1 started the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions with a seemingly insurmountable six-shot lead, then spent the afternoon proving why the word "seemingly" has to be interjected into the sentence.

Johnson picked a bad time to have perhaps his worst round of the year, failing to make a single birdie after notching 22 over the first 54 holes. It added up to a two-shot win for Rose, who entered the final round admittedly playing for second place.

A few hours on the paddleboard back home in Florida should help DJ put to bed any lingering regrets about his final-round woes amid blustery conditions, but it was certainly a surprising result for the American fans who went to bed Saturday night expecting to wake up to news of a Johnson coronation.


1. But let's not shortchange Rose, who put up a closing 67 on a difficult day when no one else in the top 10 managed to break 70.

The Englishman was a hard-luck runner-up at the Masters earlier this year, and he appeared to be closing in on his first winless year since 2009. But he remained patient amid Johnson's surprising collapse, and managed to take advantage when the slimmest of opportunities presented itself.

It's his first win since a gold medal was placed around his neck at the Rio Olympics, and his first PGA Tour victory since the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

2. As an Englishman born in South Africa who currently resides in the Bahamas, it should come as no surprise that Rose possesses a global resume. He has won tournaments on every continent except Antarctica and has lifted trophies in 10 different countries: China, England, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Scotland, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey and the U.S.

3. Rose came from eight shots back to begin the final round, the third largest comeback in Tour history.

The only players to erase larger deficits on the final day? Paul Lawrie, who was 11 shots back at The Open in 1999 and Stewart Cink, who blew past Ted Purdy at the RBC Heritage in 2004 from nine shots off the pace.


4. To put Johnson's stunning demise in perspective, this was just the seventh time in his career that he didn't record at least a single birdie or better, and the first such round since June.

Johnson was in position to become the first player to ever win three WGC events in a calendar year, and he was hoping to extend his active streak of seasons with at least one win to 11. It turns out both will have to wait until at least 2018.

5. Johnson's Sunday melt took a little bit of heat off of Brooks Koepka's rough patch during the third round.

Playing alongside Johnson in the final group and holding a share of the lead, Koepka made a quad on the par-5 eighth hole en route to dropping well off the pace. He ended up alongside Johnson in second place at 12 under.

Earlier in the week, Koepka estimated that he and Johnson had hung out together for 14 of the 21 days following the Presidents Cup, talking about anything but golf. Neither will likely look to dwell on how things ended this week in China.


6. For a guy who hasn't played competitively in months, Tiger Woods sure found a way to be relevant in the news cycle this past week.

First there was the "stinger" social media post, which drove speculation about his possible return to a new high. Then there was an appearance at Game 2 of the World Series in Los Angeles, followed by his guilty plea Friday to reckless driving charges stemming from a May DUI arrest.

That's a full week, and it yielded Woods a solid chunk of the news cycle while many of the game's best played overnight in Asia.

7. Amid all the appearances, the question remains whether or not Woods will decide to tee it up two months from now at the Hero World Challenge.

The tournament made the unconventional move of announcing 16 of its 18 players earlier this month, perhaps paving the way for Woods to take one of two remaining sponsor exemptions should he so choose. It amounts to a far-fetched scenario for anyone who listened to Woods at the Presidents Cup, when he acknowledged the possibility of never again playing competitively.

The themes from Woods and agent Mark Steinberg have been to take it slow following back fusion surgery in April. But with each passing social media swing video, the lure of a return in the controlled environment of the Bahamas may be too tempting to pass up.

8. One person who seems confident about Woods' return is former swing coach Hank Haney.

Haney hasn't worked with Woods since 2010, but the two were together for six major wins. Haney explained on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio that he expects Woods to tee it up at Albany, even though his most recent return to competition lasted only seven rounds before back issues flared up that led to another surgery.

"They're going to toy with everybody, because it's just what they do. But he's playing at the Hero World Challenge," Haney said. "He's not going to wait until February to play again."


9. In an era of 20-somethings dominating the LPGA tour, Cristie Kerr continues to turn back the clock.

Kerr won her 20th career title at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia over the weekend, becoming the first player to win over the age of 40 since Catriona Matthew back in 2011.

She did so with a 35-foot bomb on the final green, and with yet another trophy on her shelf she trails only Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb on the LPGA's all-time money list.

"Yes, I'm 40," Kerr told reporters. "And a winner."

And clearly still with plenty left in the tank.

10. Kudos to the USGA for taking the top event in women's golf to one of the most iconic courses in the country.

Pebble Beach will host the 2023 U.S. Women's Open, creating a Northern California double-dip with The Olympic Club hosting in 2021. It'll be the first time the top women in the game play a major on the scenic oceanside layout, and it's about time they were afforded the opportunity.

Pebble will also host the men in 2027, creating a 10-year run of blueblood venues that means a possible return to a course like Chambers Bay or Erin Hills will have to wait until at least 2028.


When is a win not a win?

The riddle was answered this week with the plight of high-schooler Emily Nash, who dusted a field of boys at a regional competition only to be denied both the first-place trophy and a deserving spot at the state tournament.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association dug its heels in while clinging to an arcane bylaw that insists girls can compete in boys' events, but that their scores can only count for the team portion - not the individual race.

The subsequent social media firestorm had pros from both genders weighing in with support for Nash, while LPGA stars crafted a video tribute to Nash under the hashtag #EmilyWon.

It's an unfortunate situation, and one that should have been easily resolved. Hopefully the resulting controversy ensures a similar scenario won't play out in the future.

This week's award winners ... 


In the Winner's Circle: Ryan Armour, who earned his first Tour win at age 41 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Armour has bounced between the PGA and Web.com circuits for a decade and had only one prior top-10 finish since 2008.

Making the Most of It: Scott Strohmeyer. After surviving a pre-qualifier and winning a Monday qualifier with a holed bunker shot, Strohmeyer tied for fourth in his first career Tour start. The top-10 finish earns him a spot this week in Las Vegas.

Taking Notice: Chesson Hadley, who was a runner-up in Mississippi and came away impressed with the aerial display from Strohmeyer over the weekend:

Thanks for Stopping By: Shugo Imahira, who was disqualified from the WGC-HSBC Champions because he apparently saw an incorrect starting time and failed to show up for his 10:35 a.m. start to Round 3. But in the no-cut, limited-field event, he still went home with $43,000 in (unofficial) prize money.


On the Mend: John Daly, who had to abruptly withdraw from the same event after re-injuring his knee in an on-course fall. Hopefully the two-time major champ can come back stronger in 2018, as he remains an asset for the tour.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat: Bernhard Langer, who won a PGA Tour Champions playoff event for the second straight week. We ran out of superlatives long ago for the ageless German, who is now just nine wins shy of Hale Irwin's all-time mark on the over-50 circuit.

Back in the Saddle: Paul Casey, who will reportedly reinstate his European Tour membership for 2018. Suddenly, the European chances of winning back the Ryder Cup next fall at Paris seem decidedly better with the Englishman back in the fold.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Hideki Matsuyama. A return to the site of his seven-shot romp from a year ago wasn't enough to snap the Japanese phenom out of his months-long slide, as he tied for 50th and never broke par. Sigh.

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Furyk: Not worried about ' overconfidence, complacency'

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:44 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – After seeing the course for the first time this week on Tuesday, the U.S. Ryder Cup team convened for a dinner.

Although the team wasn’t giving away any secrets, according to captain Jim Furyk the goal was to allow players to share ideas on the course, potential pairings and to further solidify this week’s game plan.

“We sat down and had a great conversation with the players last night. The players spoke a lot,” Furyk said following his team’s morning practice. “There's not a worry on my end of any overconfidence, complacency. No one is putting the cart before the horse here.”


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Specifically, vice captain Davis Love III said he reminded the team of a speech Michael Jordan gave at the 2012 matches.

“We started a little bit last night talking about the ultimate goal. Michael Jordan said if you think about the goal of winning the championship you’re not going to be able to play. You’re going to be too nervous,” Love said. “You break it down goal by goal.

The U.S. team only played nine holes on Wednesday at Le Golf National, the back nine, and will likely play the front nine during Thursday’s practice before the matches begin. Although Furyk has said the key to this week is getting the U.S. team to understand the course, he’s also aware of the need for rest following a grueling stretch of playoff golf for most of his squad.

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Underdogs? Label doesn't concern Bjorn

By Will GraySeptember 26, 2018, 12:37 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – As the opening-day sessions draw near, European captain Thomas Bjorn is keeping his plans close to the vest. But he’s not getting bogged down in the notion that his squad might be the underdog this week at Le Golf National.

Jim Furyk’s American squad is one of the strongest on paper in Ryder Cup history, with only Phil Mickelson lower than 17th in the latest world rankings. It’s led Las Vegas oddsmakers to install the Americans as slight favorites in the biennial matches despite the fact that the Europeans haven’t lost at home since 1993.

Bjorn didn’t make any changes to his three practice foursomes one day to the next, lending some potential clarity to who will be paired with whom once the competition begins in earnest. And while he’s not shying away from the notion that his team might lack the firepower of the Americans, he’s not going to make it a significant focus in the team room, either.


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“My job is to create a process for those 12 players to go out and perform their best. Are we underdogs? Probably on paper we are,” Bjorn said. “But we still believe that we can win. We still believe that we can go out and do a job on the golf course, and we concentrate on us.”

Bjorn remained coy when asked if he plans to ensure all 12 players see the course for at least one match Friday, although he reiterated that a plan is in place and “everyone knows where they are going.”

But with strength on both sides, Bjorn did open up about his expectation that this week’s matches could take an already historic competition to another level.

“These teams are the two best teams, world ranking-wise, that have been across from each other in this event,” Bjorn said. “It’s all lined up to be something special, so it’s for those 24 players to go out and show that.”

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It's been a while: Happy 25th anniversary, America!

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:20 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The last time the U.S. team won a Ryder Cup in Europe, Bryson DeChambeau was a week old, Jordan Spieth 2 months old, and Justin Thomas 5 months old.

Nearly a third of this week’s U.S. team was diapers when the Tom Watson-led Americans pulled off a 15-13 victory in 1993 at The Belfry.

Davis Love III, a two-time captain who is serving as an assistant this week, was playing in his first Ryder Cup in ’93 and secured the winning point, beating Costantino Rocca, 1 up, in his Sunday singles match.

Now 25 years removed from that victory, Love concedes it would have been unthinkable that 25 years later, the ’93 match would be the U.S. side’s last road victory.

“It’s surprising, 25 years,” Love sighed on Wednesday as the U.S. team went through its paces at Le Golf National.

It hasn’t been a complete bust for Team USA on the road since ’93; there have been close calls. The Americans dropped a one-point decision in 1997 in Spain and lost by the same margin in 2010 at Celtic Manor. But everything in between has been utterly forgettable. There was a three-point decision in 2002 at The Belfry and that nine-point boat race in 2006 in Ireland. Most recently, the Continent rolled 16 ½-11 ½ in 2014 in Scotland.

“It's not anything I need to mention in the team room. There's not like a big ‘25’ sitting in there anywhere. They are well aware of it, and they are well aware of how difficult it is to win in Europe. That's the battle we fight this week,” said U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who was playing Q-School in ’93 when Love and Co. were winning at The Belfry.

There is no shortage of reasons for America’s European failures, nor is there some sort of secret sauce for reversing U.S. fortunes.

“I'll praise both the European Tour and the way they choose golf courses, venues where they have European Tour events,” Furyk said. “We're coming into a golf course that they know a lot better than we do, that will be set up in a fashion that they think suits their game. Those are obstacles we have to overcome.”


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Le Golf National annually hosts the French Open, and the setup this week has a distinctly European flare, with narrow fairways ringed by thick rough - mowed toward the tee box, no less - and relatively slower greens than what the Americans are used to on the PGA Tour.

Then there’s the crowd, a group that has proven itself formidable even when they travel to a U.S.. This week’s scene promises to be particularly intense from the outset, with the massive grandstand behind the first tee poised to hold more than 6,000 fans.

“They make a lot of noise,” Furyk said. “When we walk into that first tee, and they announce both teams, they are going to say, ‘And from the United States,’ announce two guys, and there's going to be a nice applause. And when they announce the two folks from Europe, there's going to be a giant roar and those players are going to feel that presence, and you're going to hear those roars around the golf course.”

And finally there will be pressure. We’re talking pressure the likes of which many have never experienced. Some would compare it to the intensity of being in contention during the final round at a major, but that really doesn’t do it justice.

The American contingent always wants to win for team and country, but this year’s matches bring in the added load of breaking a 25-year slide. The U.S. team will say the right things, dismiss the notion that somehow this Ryder Cup is more important than all others, but simmering under that calm exterior is the nagging truth.

“Phil [Mickelson] started in ’16 on the 18th green; he started talking about winning this Ryder Cup,” Love said. “We hadn’t even finished. He took someone off to the side of the green and said, ‘Look, in Paris it’s going to be a different ballgame. It’s an away game. We’re going to have to be on our game.’”

Ryder Cup captains always wear a variety of hats, but this week the U.S. leaders have taken on the role of arm-chair sports psychologists. It’s simple stuff really: Focus on your job and not the outcome; ignore the noise; win your point.

In an attempt to change his team room's mindset, Love is trying out a new narrative, that it’s been four years since a U.S. team Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team has lost.

“They have to hear that. We have won three in a row. Don’t worry about the last 25 years,” Love said.

For three days, the U.S. team has been busy trying to learn as much as they can about Le Golf National. You know the deal, luck favors the prepared. This match and America’s 25-year losing streak, however, may depend on what they’re able to forget.

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Tiger Tracker: 42nd Ryder Cup

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 26, 2018, 11:15 am

Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods is competing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. We're tracking him.