Open Championship week begins (with 10 favorites!), Lucas Glover completes his comeback, Min Woo Lee beats a strong field at the Scottish Open, Bryson DeChambeau hires a new employee and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
In the Year of the Comeback, Lucas Glover authored yet another good one Sunday at the John Deere Classic.
With a final-round 64, Glover won by two shots for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2011 Wells Fargo. The span between victories – 3,717 days – was the second-longest on Tour this season, behind the 4,074 days that had passed since Stewart Cink won in 2009 and then again last fall in Napa. Cink also added a W earlier this year at Harbour Town.
Like any veteran, Glover, 41, has had his share of highs and lows over the past decade. He has battled demons on the greens and a couple of injuries. He dealt with a high-profile incident with his wife and was in the stressful position of finishing outside the top 100 in the FedExCup standings seven times in a nine-year span, losing his card twice before ultimately retaining his playing privileges through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
“It was bad as far as being on Tour,” he said Sunday night, “but in the grand scheme of things, I still was a pro golfer and still had a chance to get my job back. That was pretty low, but as far as how I kept going, it’s just self-belief and the ability to work hard, trust what you’re working on and believe in yourself, and I’ve always done that.”
Glover is now exempt into this week’s Open and the 2022 Masters. He doesn’t have to worry about Tour status anymore, either – he has that locked up until at least 2023.
The only thing more surprising than the wind not whipping for four days in Scotland was the champion at the national open: Min Woo Lee, the world No. 240, who emerged from the best field in tournament history to claim the Rolex Series title and $1.3 million paycheck.
Lee, 22, whose sister Minjee plays on the LPGA and is the 14th-ranked player in the world, showed why many have pegged him as the next great Australian player. He claimed his second European Tour title by ripping off six consecutive birdies on the front nine, firing a closing 64 and then prevailing in a playoff against Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry after hearting a cold-blooded 10-footer on the first extra hole.
The victory gets him into The Open, but when asked about his new target, he laughed: “Oh, I don’t know. I’m going to get through this night first and then I can tell you.”
It’s been a memorable few weeks for Australian golf fans, after Cam Davis’ victory at the Rocket Mortgage, Lucas Herbert’s impressive play at the Irish Open and now Lee capturing one of the European Tour’s crown jewels.
Which got us to thinking: Could Marc Leishman, fresh off a third-place showing at the Travelers and with a nice Open record (three top-6s!), make it three weeks in a row for the Aussies? Hmmm.
Before departing for the year’s final major, Bryson DeChambeau announced his new caddie: Brian Zeigler, the lead instructor at Dallas National, an assistant under DeChambeau’s swing coach Chris Como and one of the country’s best young teachers.
Zeigler replaces Tim Tucker, who left the bag on the eve of DeChambeau’s title defense at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Perhaps caught off guard by the departure, DeChambeau missed the cut and declined to talk to the media, fueling speculation about what led to the split.
DeChambeau announced the new addition on Instagram on Saturday, and both he and Tucker talked to Golf.com (with whom DeChambeau has a content agreement). Player and caddie continued to stress that the breakup was mutual and that they’d actually discussed a succession plan late last year after Tucker said he was growing weary of the grind.
Having been around DeChambeau for the past few years, Zeigler surely knows what he’s signing up for by taking the bag of one of the game’s most demanding players. The only question now is whether together they can hit their stride quick enough to cap a season that has been measured more by controversies than crowning achievements.
Rest assured, 156 players will still tee it up this week at Royal St. George’s.
It just wasn’t the 156 they had originally planned.
The number of withdrawals from The Open is now up to 17 (as of Monday morning) after another wave of players pulled out of the year’s final major over the weekend.
Some of the reasons were understandable: Rocket Mortgage champion Cam Davis couldn’t travel to London because, after getting married last fall, he’s in the process of applying for a green card and can’t leave the country.
Some of the reasons were noble: Sungjae Im, facing mandatory military service by age 28 unless he earns a medal for South Korea, decided to focus his efforts on the Olympics.
Some of the reasons were a frustrating sign of the times: Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is currently symptom-free after testing positive for COVID-19 on July 2, but he’s unable to enter the country while still testing positive in PCR tests; Bubba Watson, meanwhile, despite being vaccinated, was identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive and also can’t make the trip per government regulations.
And some were, well, left unexplained, like Matthew Wolff, who has been open about his recent mental-health struggles didn’t offer an official reason in a press release.
No matter. This was always going to be a different Open, with 32,000 fans on-site but an extremely tight circle for competitors and little other on-site presence for media members and assorted dignitaries. It’s just a shame that, after a two-year wait and six other majors being contested in a 11-month span, The Open is still being plagued by these COVID-related issues. At least we can anticipate full participation next year at the Old Course.
But before we get there ...
ONE MAN'S TOP 10 FAVORITES FOR THE OPEN
1.) Jon Rahm: His putter didn’t cooperate at the Scottish Open, and yet Rahm still contended deep into the final round, now 44 under par (with a 67.7 scoring average) across his last 12 rounds. If a solo seventh is his hangover result from Torrey, then it’s all-systems-go for Royal St. George’s. It definitely feels like he’s about to go on a 2020 DJ-type of run.
2.) Brooks Koepka: Would be the prototypical Open champ: hits irons with a boring trajectory, avoids the calamitous mistake, strong from inside 10 feet, doesn’t get flustered by bad breaks. Little wonder he has three top-10s in The Open since 2015.
3.) Xander Schauffele: Top-7s in two of the year’s three majors only fuels the belief that it’s just a matter of time before he breaks through. Played in the final group at the 2018 Open.
4.) Louis Oosthuizen: Speaking of due: Louie. Runner-up finishes in the last two majors, and he has the winning experience (if not the consistency) to handle The Open.
5.) Viktor Hovland: Making his Open debut, he shrugged off the U.S. Open WD with a convincing win at the BMW International Open. Never know with a first-timer, but Hovland’s game travels and he doesn’t get fazed by much.
6.) Jordan Spieth: Finished 30th or better in every Open since 2015 (champ in '17). Though a stronger wind will be the ultimate test for his revamped swing, he has the smarts to navigate these unique and challenging examinations.
7.) Justin Thomas: Amazingly, his T-8 at the Scottish was his first top-10 since The Players, and just his second this year in a full-field event. Here’s hoping the wind blows, because then his shot-shaping ability can shine.
8.) Dustin Johnson: We gotta include the world No. 1, right? Kicked away a chance to win here in 2011, and even though he’s sleepwalked through the past five months, he has looked better lately and is capable of going on a tear at any time.
9.) Patrick Reed: Three top-20s in six career Open starts, and he’s a better ball-striker than when The Open was last played two years ago (eighth on Tour this season in strokes gained: total). The tougher the conditions, the better Reed’s chances.
10.) Lee Westwood: At 49, does the old warhorse have one last Open run in him? Darren Clarke did in 2011, and Westy enters the week in decidedly better form.
Also keep an eye on: Tyrrell Hatton (quietest 10th-ranked player in the world?); Rory McIlroy (unpredictable form of late but awesome Open run from 2014-18 can’t be discounted); Scottie Scheffler (Open debut but showed well in benign conditions at Scottish); Matt Fitzpatrick (lost Scottish playoff but still looking for first top-10 at The Open); Joaquin Niemann (coming off a playoff loss in Detroit and has the all-around game that should play well at an Open); Lucas Herbert (wonder how much he has left in the tank at this point but tough to ignore Win-T4 the last two weeks); Martin Kaymer (snuck into the field as an alternate but has a couple of runners-up recently); and Lucas Glover (did you really forget that he was the 36-hole co-leader at RSG in 2011?).
THIS WEEK'S AWARD WINNERS ...
Major champ (Times Two): Jim Furyk. The grittiest grinder became the eighth player in history to win both the U.S. Open (2003) and U.S. Senior Open (2021), joining an illustrious group that includes Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Orville Moody, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin. Even more satisfying for Furyk was how he did it, hanging on for a three-shot win while converting a 54-hole lead (his first on the senior circuit) for the first time in nearly 11 years. Prior to the win Sunday in Omaha, he was 0 for his last 10 in that position.
Security, Anyone?: Random fan at the Scottish. This was one of the most bizarre scenes you’ll ever see: a spectator ambling onto the tee, grabbing McIlroy’s driver headcover and an iron, and preparing to take a few swings before the first-tee announcer and security finally step in to explain that, no, sir, you cannot do this.
Twitter laughed, as did McIlroy’s playing partner Jon Rahm, but it was a bit of an unsettling moment. What if the guy was carrying a knife? Or if he tried to take a swing at the players? Why was security (assigned to every marquee group) so late to intervene?
This incident will surely prompt a number of discussions, and it’s actually a surprise it doesn’t happen more often – especially in the States, where the fans can be more, shall we say, unruly.
Fun While It Lasted: Jon Rahm’s reign as world No. 1. How about this for a fun bit of OWGR math: Rahm finished seventh at the Scottish Open and Dustin Johnson was idle (and hasn’t placed better than 10th since February) ... and yet DJ still moved back to the No. 1 spot. Fear not, since those glorious three weeks won’t be Rahm’s last time atop the world order.
Inauspicious Start (and End): Sebastian Munoz and Adam Schenk. What’s about the worst possible way to start out in the final round when clinging to a 54-hole lead? A vicious shank on the opening hole. Rattled, Munoz looked out of rhythm the rest of the day, dropping into a tie for fourth.
Adam Schenk (T-4) thankfully didn't live up to his surname later in the round, but he did make a bid-killing blunder of his own in the rough on No. 17. Winning is hard!
Better Late Than Never: Patton Kizzire. The big man sure does know how to make it count: He’s third on Tour in final-round scoring average, firing a Sunday 65 at the Deere to go along with four other sub-65 closers. Don’t look now, but he’s knocking on the door for East Lake (No. 46 in the FedExCup).
Stay Hot: Hank Lebioda. That’s 14 consecutive rounds of par or better, as the left-hander is now 42 under par in his last three starts. In danger of losing his card at this time last month, he now could reach the second playoff event (No. 83 in the standings).
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Nasa Hataoka. The Japanese stud opened up a six-shot lead at the Marathon Classic after an opening 61 and then a third-round 64. That’s when inclement weather moved in, pushing back the start time for the final group before the course eventually became unplayable. Every group was on the course, but rather than finish Monday, the tour decided against it altogether – saying that it wasn’t an option “due to an unfavorable forecast.” OK, then. A 54-hole winner it is.
Not Ideal!: Evian field. With U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso the latest to drop out, five of the top 15 players in the world won’t make the trip to France for the Evian, the LPGA’s fourth of five majors. We knew it’d be ugly because of the condensed schedule (two majors and the Olympics in the span of a month) and international travel restrictions, but nearly half of the top 20 (eight) won't be there. Yikes.
Keeping the Dream Alive: Tag Ridings. How about the 46-year-old Ridings, whose lone pro title came at the 2002 Permian Basin Open, beating back all of the hungry young studs by taking the Korn Ferry Tour’s Colorado Championship. Good stuff.
From the Nice-Try-But-No-Chance Files: Ryder Cup sportsmanship award. Jack might not like it, but the Ryder Cup has become big business and a huge deal – a legacy-definer for both the captain and the players under him. Of course tensions are going to be high. And that’s OK! A little contentiousness every two years injects some life into a sport that is too often seen as staid.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Brian Harman. The scrappy southpaw was the top pick at the Deere, a former winner who has enjoyed a solid season with a slew of top-15s (seven). Alas, he did next to nothing at TPC Deere Run this year, going 70-71 alongside Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker and missing the cut by three. Sigh.