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Monday Scramble: Smile, and the whole world smiles with you

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Hinako Shibuno comes out of nowhere, PGA Tour cards are saved and lost, the USGA makes a rule change, Tiger Woods returns to competition and my third favorite Lee Trevino note gets lost to time. All that and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Making her first start outside Japan, Hinako Shibuno in one week went from a virtual unknown to the LPGA’s latest major-stealing star.

The 20-year-old became known as the “Smiling Cinderella” after winning twice on the JLPGA this year. She became known as the Women’s British Open winner when she rammed in a birdie putt on the 72nd hole Sunday to defeat Lizette Salas by a stroke.

She smiled, she high-fived, she cracked jokes with her caddie, she even rebounded from a four-putt early in her final round.

The win not only makes her an LPGA member but also puts her in the mix for an Olympic bid for the 2020 Games.

It won’t be a surprise if she defers the start of her LPGA membership until next season, but whenever she does arrive full-time, the tour will inherit another world-beating talent and a world-attracting personality.

If she can create that many new fans outside Japan in one week, what will the reaction be like if she’s representing her country next summer in Tokyo?

Randy Mell with more on the victory here.

1. Even more endearing than Shibuno’s personality and attitude was her pace of play. Having Golf Twitter laud the speed with which you play is more impressive than actually winning.

She was so quick to play her approach to the 72nd hole — after joking about how embarrassing it would be to shank the ball — that our NBC broadcast team laughed at the camera crew having to scramble into position to film the shot.  You don’t quite get the sense of it here, but you do see the result.

Yet more evidence that slow play bears no relation to quality golf. More of this please, on all the tours.

2. Speaking of stone-cold approaches to 18, I would have lost a lot of money going all in on Lizette Salas after this gem.

Her lipout minutes later was the cruelest way to end a Sunday 65 in the final round of a major. And when you consider the pace with which Shibuno’s own birdie putt hit the hole, every cliché about the fickle nature of golf comes racing to mind.

Although she remains winless since her only LPGA victory in 2014, Salas recorded two major top-5s this year, is on pace to shatter her previous high for earnings in a season, and just passed the $5 million mark for her career. She said Sunday she feels “kind of reborn.” In one month, she’ll take part in another Solheim Cup, where she clinched the outright win for the U.S. in 2017.

3. If Morgan Pressel was already on captain Juli Inkster’s radar, then what is she now? Probably headed to Gleneagles. Pressel finished solo fourth Sunday at Woburn. It was her best finish in a major in four years. The result is her fourth finish of sixth or better in a little over three months.

Although Inkster admits there has to be “a changing of the guard” on the U.S. side at some point, she’s been just as clear about wanting a veteran who’s been on the Solheim stage before to round out a roster potentially consisting of five rookies. Pressel is a career 10-7-2 in five appearances, highlighted by a 4-0-0 run in a U.S. loss in 2011. She had played five straight Solheims before missing out in 2017 and now appears poised to represent the U.S. a sixth time.

Inkster will make her two selections on Aug. 25. Other U.S. mainstays on the outside looking in include Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Gerina Piller, Angela Stanford and Brittany Lang.

4. One last note on the Women’s British, how terrific was it to see four different players – Shibuno, Salas, Pressel and Rolex No. 1 Jin Young Ko – all playing their best down the stretch? It was birdie after birdie, haymaker after haymaker. The way Shibuno’s ball rammed into the hole was the perfect ending to a wild back nine, a back nine she owned all week. Her front-and-back splits from Woburn this week:

  • Front: Even par
  • Back: 18 under

Lee Trevino

5. Unfortunately for the 1974 Greater New Orleans Invitational, the last player to win a PGA Tour event without dropping a single shot was J.T. Poston at the 2019 Wyndham Championship.

Apologies to Lee Trevino. We ran out of time.

6. Poston won the day, $1.1 million, and PGA Tour status through the 2021-22 season, but the biggest winner – at least at the Wyndham – was Webb Simpson. Solo second at Sedgefield paid out $669,600 and Simpson’s ninth-place finish on the Wyndham Rewards list netted him an extra $550,000 for a Sunday total of $1.2 million. (Although, if we’re doing that math, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar all made more than that in bonus payouts Sunday and they didn’t even play.)

As for Simpson, he just went from 10th to sixth in the U.S. Presidents Cup rankings, with the top eight after the BMW Championship in two week making the team. That’s now seven top-10s for Webb in Greensboro, with a win, two seconds, a third and over $3 million in earnings at just one event.

I’d name my kid Wyndham, too.

7. While the top 125 move on to the FedExCup Playoffs, some names outside the top 125 just lost their PGA Tour cards. Some notables include Daniel Berger (131), former FedExCup winner Bill Haas (140) and two-time major champion and former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer (150), who’s five-year exemption for winning the U.S. Open at Pnehurst just expired.

Will Gray with more on the bubble here and more on the big-name misses here.

8. Those ranked Nos. 126-200 on the season-long points will now head to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where they’ll take a shot at earning back their PGA Tour status.

One of the names headed KFTF is Viktor Hovland, one of this summer’s stud rookies, who fell just 67 points shy of cracking the top 125 in just five starts as a professional. Bear in mind, Hovland received zero points for the following finishes this season as an amateur: T-40 at the Arnold Palmer, T-32 at the Masters, and T-12 at the U.S. Open. Were he allowed to count those events, he’d already have his 2019-20 Tour card.

The USGA announced Monday morning a new rule that will allow U.S. Amateur champions to play the U.S. Open as a professional if they so choose. That dynamic doesn’t change how amateur non-member points are counted, but it would have at bare minimum put more money in Hovland's pocket, and it will change the calculus for Amateur champs moving forward. More here.

9. Tiger Woods this week will make his first start since missing the cut at The Open and just his fifth since winning the Masters. What we saw at Portrush was not inspiring, and it gave way to takes that Woods is exactly as close to the end as we all thought he was; that his fifth green jacket was more of an outstanding outlier than a sign of what else is to come.

It will be encouraging if Woods shows up to Liberty National and Medinah and looks and sounds rested and sharp. If not, with this much time off, it will be at the very least odd.

10. You know who isn’t close? Jordan Spieth. No matter how many times he says he’s working his way back to playing his best golf, he’ll also admit to being more than a little lost. Take, for example, this quote from Saturday at the Wyndham, where he missed the secondary cut following a third-round 77: “And then No. 10, when I hit that one out of bounds, it was like, ‘Man, I don’t know what’s going on.’”

He does know that his putting and scrambling are keeping him competitive, as the rest of his game continues to plague him. He’s grinding away, trying to fix his swing in between starts and after rounds. “You can’t exactly fix your ball striking in a day,” he said.

Sometimes, that’s true. Other times, players do find their game overnight. Jordan has had a lot more than a day, and he still hasn’t found it.

The FedExCup

11. With the FedExCup Playoffs starting this week, a friendly reminder that the Tour Championship at East Lake has been transformed into a weighted/handicapped finale, which each member of the 30-man field being spotted a number of shots prior  to the start of the tournament.

Here’s how the finale would start based on the top 30 players in the FedExCup standings at the end of the regular season:

  • Brooks Koepka: 10 under
  • Rory McIlroy: 8 under
  • Matt Kuchar: 7 under
  • Xander Schauffele: 6 under
  • Gary Woodland: 5 under
  • Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm: 4 under
  • Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Rickie Fowler, Chez Reavie, Charles Howell III: 3 under
  • Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry: 2 under
  • Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Sungjae Im, Ryan Palmer, Francesco Molinari: 1 under
  • Scott Piercy, J.T. Poston, Tiger Woods, Sung Kang, Hideki Matsuyama: Even par

More on the restructured playoffs here.

According to the British tabloid The Sun, Thorbjorn Olesen was arrested last week on suspicion of sexual assault while flying back from the WGC-FedEx St. Jude.

A witness said of Olesen: “He started abusing some of the passengers and crew and then made a pass at one of the female passengers before taking a leak in the aisle.”

Added the witness, as if this was really the issue: “It was shocking behaviour. You would expect it maybe on a budget airline but not in the first-class cabin on BA.’’

The PGA Tour said in a statement: “These are very serious and deeply troubling allegations. Even though he is not a member of the PGA Tour, a claim of this magnitude is something we take very seriously. We are in close contact with our counterparts at the European Tour, and we will not provide further comment until additional information is available from the authorities.”

Olesen is currently 64th in the world, and 60th in the Race to Dubai standings.

This week's award winners ...

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes: To Ashleigh Buhai, who finished a solo fifth at Woburn playing alongside Shibuno. Check out her reaction to Sunday’s winning putt:

I’ve seen guys and girls in a $5 Nassau support their own partner less.

This is how I enter a bakery: To Shibuno, who’s run-walk across the green to collect her trophy captured the cheerful spirit she displayed all week.

You see the difference? Brendan Steele got hit with a two-shot penalty Friday after his caddie threw down an alignment stick after one of Steele’s shots. Rule 4-3 prohibits the use of “any type of golf training or swing aid (such as an alignment rod or weighted head cover or ‘donut’) or a non-conforming club to make a practice swing or in any other way that creates a potential advantage by helping the player in preparing for or making a stroke (such as help with swing plane, grip, alignment, ball position or posture).” That said, a rules official told Steele he would have been just fine using an umbrella or a club.

HEY REF, YOU … don’t suck at golf: To National Hockey League referee Garrett Rank.

The 31-year-old won the Western Amateur, becoming the first Canadian to do so since Jim Nelford in 1977. The Philadelphia Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

The streak is over: Zach Johnson missed the postseason for the first time ever. That was 12 straight appearances dating back to 2007. That leaves only nine players who have made the playoffs every year since 2007: Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Charles Howell III, Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman.

Blown fantasy pick of the week: I for some reason talked myself into Alex Noren over Paul Casey. End it.