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Monday Scramble: Reed out of woods; Woods anything but

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Patrick Reed is back, Tiger Woods deals with another injury, the PGA Tour gets real about slow play, the FedExCup race tightens up, the European Solheim Cup team turns to a familiar name and more in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble:

Patrick Reed has found his way out of the wilderness.

It’d been 41 tournaments over 16 months since he last won, at the 2018 Masters. In that time he fell off the map – and out of favor with many of his former teammates – but was so lost earlier this year that he briefly considered the input of another swing coach.

Reed began to find his way back, ironically, by not playing. He went 10 days without touching a club in May – that’s an eternity for a guy who usually competes as much as any top player in the world – and came back reenergized, posting five consecutive top-25s before starting the playoffs.

It was a timely victory. It ended the long winless drought. It put him in his best position yet to win the ($15 million) FedExCup prize. And it also applied some pressure on Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods, who will have to seriously consider Reed (now No. 12 in points) when he makes his four picks on Nov. 4.

1. Who makes the U.S. roster might be the only interesting thing about this year’s Presidents Cup.

Reed’s win moved him to No. 12 in the standings – that’s a spot ahead of Woods, who is no longer guaranteed to pick himself for the biennial matches. Will Woods instead select his 2018 partner, even after Reed’s inflammatory comments in Paris?

There’s only one more week to qualify automatically, so right now Reed joins U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth among those who would need a handout to play at Royal Melbourne.

Tough choices for Captain Woods.

2. Despite dropping one of the playoff legs, there wasn’t much jostling after The Northern Trust.

Just four players moved inside the top-70 number after the first of three events: Troy Merritt, Joaquin Niemann, Wyndham Clark and Harold Varner III. It was Varner who made the biggest move, jumping from 102nd to 29th.

As for who moved out, Sergio Garcia’s controversial season is over. So is the smashing debut of Matthew Wolff. Danny Lee and Kevin Streelman also have a few more weeks off before the new season begins next month.

3. The only surprise about Tiger Woods’ withdrawal last week at The Northern Trust was the ailment.

Though he blamed the cold, damp weather for his back soreness and stiffness this summer, it was Woods’ oblique that apparently gave out before the start of the second round at Liberty National. It’s been clear for months now that Woods hasn’t been right – he could barely move at the U.S. Open, he looked slow and lethargic at The Open, and last week he couldn’t even get through the Wednesday pro-am.

It shouldn’t be a long-term injury, but for a 43-year-old with a fused back, it's another reminder of his fragility.

4. Which is why Woods should shut it down for the rest of 2019.

This scribe always chuckles at the sentiment that Woods HAS to play, like he has to appease his big-money sponsors. What, you think Bridgestone and TaylorMade and even the PGA Tour powers are going to pressure the living legend to play, or else?

Come on.

He shouldn’t play this week at the BMW. He shouldn’t participate in that pay-per-view hit-and-giggle or the inaugural Zozo Championship in October. And he definitely shouldn’t compete as a playing captain at the Presidents Cup, after a full day of travel.

If he's trying to prolong his career as long as possible, let him get his body right and try again in 2020.

5. If this is the last we see of Woods for a few months, it’s been a fascinating season.

Except for his Masters victory (and that was really, really significant!), he hasn’t finished closer than eight shots in any other stroke-play event.

Weird, huh?

6. Those waiting for the PGA Tour to do something – no, seriously, anything – about slow play might finally get their wish.

Check out this Tour-issued release on Sunday afternoon, when officials said they will look to improve its pace-of-play policy.

It's about time, because finally it was the players, not the fans, who were leading the push for a crackdown on the slowpokes – and that can’t sit well with Tour officials.

Yes, Bryson DeChambeau and J.B. Holmes are among the chief violators of the Tour’s pace-of-play policy, which calls for the first player in the group to hit his shot within 60 seconds and the rest to play in 40 seconds. But they’re only warned, put on the clock and timed if the group is out of position. If they’re keeping up, then they’re able to take as much time as they want – which is how DeChambeau, already one of the most polarizing players on Tour, was caught on video taking more than two minutes to line up (and then miss) his 8-foot putt.

7. Slow play is nothing new, of course, but what’s more difficult is doing something about it. The topic is brought up at every policy board meeting. The rules are written to accommodate the slow players, not persecute them.

Commissioner Jay Monahan is on the record saying that slow play isn’t an issue on Tour. That’s what made what happened last week so interesting. DeChambeau’s antics were caught not on the usual broadcast coverage – which can tape-delay a shot and bounce around to other groups if a player isn’t ready to hit – but instead the Tour’s featured-group coverage. That only served to highlight how slow these guys truly are. They had nowhere to hide.

Earlier this year Monahan sent a note to players urging them to make positive public comments about the USGA and its rules changes.

He can’t be happy seeing this.

Or this.

Or this.

It’s time to rally the troops – or push to enact some meaningful change.

This was a must-make birdie putt for Emiliano Grillo at The Northern Trust, and, well, he didn’t make it.

So he responded accordingly, knowing that he was headed home for the weekend:

Hi, Emiliano. PGA Tour HQ is on line 1.

This week's award winners ... 

Quick Study: Gabi Ruffels. Just five years after picking up the game, the rising junior at USC birdied the 35th and 36th holes to hand Stanford All-American Albane Valenzuela another loss at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Ruffels is the sister of much-ballyooed young pro Ryan Ruffels.

Saw That Coming: Jordan Spieth’s retreat. One shot off the halfway lead, Spieth backed up with a 74. Still, it was a familiar storyline: His weekend scoring average is more than three shots worse than his weekday scoring – that’s, by far, the worst on Tour, by nearly a shot. At least he bounced back with a final-round 67 to tie for seventh.

So It Continues: Dustin Johnson’s slide. The 36-hole leader at Liberty National, he no-showed on the weekend with rounds of 74-73 and finished 20th or worse (T-24) for the sixth consecutive tournament. That’s his worst slump since 2013.

Big Risk: Catriona Matthew. The European Solheim Cup captain made a big splash Monday by announcing Suzann Pettersen as one of her four wild-card picks, along with Bronte Law, Celine Boutier and Jodi Ewart Shadoff. That’s the same Pettersen, of course, who has played a grand total of two events since 2017 – both missed cuts. Wow.

Best Story of the Week: Scott Harrington. At age 38, he’s headed to the PGA Tour for the first time – but only after putting his career on hold last summer while his cancer-stricken wife received treatment for the second time. “I knew this was going to be the year,” he said. And so on the last two holes of the regular-season finale, he made a sporty up-and-down to save par and then birdied the 72nd hole to lock up his Tour card for 2020. Bravo.

Worst Story of the Week: Vince India. Beginning the week at No. 116 in the standings, he needed a high finish just to reach the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and give himself a chance to earn his card. And that’s exactly what he did, for a moment, moving safely inside the number heading into the final hole. But in the greenside bunker in two on 18, India’s sand shot squirted right and trickled past the flag, off the green. His ball settled in a small divot, and he stubbed his chip. His next one rocketed across the green. He wound up with double bogey, finishing the week at 85th and only earning conditional KFT status for next season. Afterward, he said: “I just did my best,” before walking off the interview set.

So Much For That: Jason Day and Steve Williams. Two months after Day hooked up with Woods’ longtime looper in hopes of returning to past glory, the two have mutually agreed to part ways. By his lofty standards, it’s been a dreadful year for Day – at No. 50 in the FedExCup race, he needs a high finish this week or his season is over.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Brooks Koepka. Picking the world No. 1 in a non-major is always a risk – that’s a strange sentence to type – but he didn’t have his best stuff in New Jersey. With no round better than 69, he finished 30th and barely held onto his lead in the playoff race. Sigh.