Justin Rose returns to No. 1, Bryson DeChambeau picks up where he left off, the LPGA Q-Series shakes up college golf and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:
The revolving door at world No. 1 continued to spin this week, as Justin Rose ascended to the top spot when he defended his title at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Rose might not win as often as Dustin Johnson, or perform in the majors as well as Brooks Koepka, but his consistency is unquestioned: In the past 52 weeks, he has finished in the top 10 in 18 of his 25 starts. That’s an absurd 72 percent, far better than any other player in that span.
And that, of course, is the purpose of the world rankings – to identify the best, most consistent player over a two-year window. It’s hard to argue with his results.
At age 38, he might not be a fixture in the top spot for years to come, but Rose is hitting his stride and playing the best golf of his career. A well-deserved No. 1, no doubt.
1. Rose’s initial ascension to No. 1 two months ago at the BMW Championship was a little awkward, after he lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.
But after prevailing in Turkey, Rose said: “Maybe this is even sweeter this time.”
Rose erased a three-shot deficit to Haotong Li during the final round and won on the first playoff hole.
2. It wasn’t without a little help.
Rose missed several putts down the stretch, going bogey-bogey on the final two holes to open the door for Li, the talented Chinese star and 54-hole leader.
But Li squandered his own opportunities. After a stunning eagle on 15, Li three-putted the 72nd hole, then missed low with his 12-footer to win in the playoff and badly shoved his 3-foot comebacker for par.
Rose grimaced and shook his head, disappointed to have won in that manner. He opened his arms and embraced Li, then afterward spoke graciously of the playoff loser.
3. Rose is fast becoming the king of the fall.
The past two years, from the start of the FedExCup Playoffs until the end of the calendar year, here are his results:
- 17 starts
- 16 top-10s
- 4 wins
- 68.0 scoring average
4. It’s never just about the golf with Bryson DeChambeau – it’s often more about the methods and the madness that accompany it – but that's not reason to overlook his world-class game.
In perfect weather in Las Vegas, DeChambeau fired four consecutive rounds of 66 or better to win by one over defending champion Patrick Cantlay.
DeChambeau’s ball-striking stats were nearly flawless: first in strokes gained: tee to green, third approaching the green, sixth off the tee.
And here was a guy just trying to “knock off the rust" while playing his first stroke-play event since the Tour Championship on Sept. 23.
5. This was DeChambeau’s fifth career Tour win, and his fourth in the past five months.
Five career wins. That’s one more than Rickie Fowler has managed in his entire PGA Tour career (214 starts).
6. And this is how you win a tournament – by holing a 60-footer for eagle on the 70th hole, to break away from the pack:
7. The biggest takeaway from the recently completed LPGA Q-Series was how many college players advanced.
A whopping seven earned a full LPGA card for the upcoming 2019 season, with three others securing at least some Symetra status for next year.
There are some big names who got through, too: NCAA individual champion Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest), reigning Annika Award winner Maria Fassi (Arkansas) and U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Kristen Gillman (Alabama).
The top 5 players in the season-ending Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings earned an automatic invitation to the Q-Series finals, and four of those five players took advantage to earn their full card.
8. That last part has created some controversy, because it will have a significant impact on the best college teams.
Alabama will be completely decimated this spring, losing not only Gillman but also last year’s No. 1 player, Lauren Stephenson. Now without four of their starters from last season’s squad that advanced to the NCAA championship match, the Tide, unfortunately, will struggle just to make it out of regionals.
UCLA will lose senior Lilia Vu to the pros, but likely will retain the services of star sophomore Patty Tavatanakit, who only secured Symetra status.
Kupcho and Fassi are the only players who have said that they will defer LPGA membership until after NCAAs in late May, but that, too, comes with risk – they’ll have roughly eight to 10 fewer starts to retain their card for 2020. And if they fail to do so, you can bet that no one will take that option next fall.
9. DeChambeau turned heads last week when he said that he intends to putt with the flagstick in, starting at Kapalua.
It’ll be within the rules, beginning in 2019, and DeChambeau says he’s simply trying to use them to his advantage.
And he should, if he believes it’ll increase his chances of holing putts. Good for him.
But it could be strange, if he is putting with the flagstick in while the rest of his playing partners opt to keep it out. That’s not only weird, optically, but it could cause even more pace-of-play issues, since the governing bodies will also allow players to tap down spike marks and continue to use at least some green-reading materials.
Wonder if the pro tours will enact a local rule to keep the flag out on the greens.
How real is the pressure of the LPGA Q-Series?
Apparently enough for a player’s mother to cheat.
Doris Chen, a former NCAA individual champion, was trying to finish inside the top 45 and secure LPGA status for next season when she pumped a drive out of bounds during the seventh of eight qualifying rounds at Pinehurst. Except she found her ball still in play, after her mother moved it from a homeowner’s backyard and back into the rough, according to colleague Randall Mell.
The homeowner spotted the infraction and notified the LPGA rules staff, and Chen, who (perhaps unwittingly) played the ball from the new spot – a violation of Rule 15-3b – was disqualified.
If it's true that Chen's mother moved the ball, she should be banned from attending events. Simple as that.
This week's award winners ...
Thank You Very Much: Nasa Hataoka. The 19-year-old from Japan capitalized on Minjee Lee’s final-day collapse (78), firing a closing 68 to win by two in her home country. It’s her second LPGA title of the season.
Still In Front: Francesco Molinari. The Open champ took off the Turkey event but maintained his position atop the season-long Race to Dubai standings with two events remaining. He has more than a million-point lead over Tommy Fleetwood. Rose is now third.
Such a Bryson Story: Vegas Golden Knights game. Imagine that, Bryson too energetically rang the siren at the local NHL game and ripped off a piece of his hand.
A Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day: Peter Uihlein. Tied for the 54-hole lead as he looks for that long-awaited Tour breakthrough, Uihlein threw up a 75 on a day when everyone was taking it deep. He tumbled all the way into a tie for 23rd. Woof.
Well, At Least That Box Is Checked: Jordan Spieth. Making his 2018-19 debut (and pleasing Tour officials who made him add two starts to his schedule, after failing to fulfill the strength-of-schedule requirement), Spieth tied for 55th in Vegas. The rust was apparent: Of the 74 players who made the cut, he ranked 73rd in strokes gained: off the tee. With a new Titleist driver and 3-wood in the bag, he said he’ll switch back to his old models until his new gear is dialed in.
Boom or Bust: Martin Kaymer. It’s been a tough season for the two-time major champion, but for all of his missed cuts (12 in 25 starts), he’s still managed three top-8 finishes since May. He tied for fifth in Turkey.
Clutch: Norman Xiong. The 19-year-old – whom your trusty correspondent profiled a few months ago, under the headline "The Next Big Thing” – birdied his final hole to advance to the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School, guaranteeing him at least some status next year on the developmental circuit. Second stage is the biggest barrier for any Tour hopeful – it is the make-or-break moment, the difference between playing on the Web for a year or grinding on the mini-tours – and it was a relief to see Xiong push through.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Tony Finau. Fresh off a playoff loss in China, perhaps it was too much to expect the big-hitting Finau to contend halfway across the world. He shot four rounds in the 60s, but he was unable to build on his strong record at TPC Summerlin (three top-20s in four starts) and tied for 36th.