Brandt Snedeker lets one get away, Jim Furyk speaks up, the LPGA gets it right, the European Tour gets creative and more in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble:
Thanks to a pretty sizeable assist from Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Tway is officially out of his father’s shadow,
Give credit where it’s due: Tway took advantage of the smallest ray of hope Sunday at the Safeway Open, hanging in down the stretch before rolling in birdies on each of his final five holes. That included the last two in regulation and three more in a playoff, first to eliminate Snedeker and then to edge Ryan Moore for his first career win.
Tway’s father, Bob, famously beat out Greg Norman for the 1986 PGA Championship, and now the two soft-spoken Oklahomans join a short list of fathers and sons who have both won on Tour.
“It’s been a long road, but this is why you work hard right here,” Tway said.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is one where Snedeker would dearly love a mulligan. Up five with 11 holes to play, his swing appeared to leave him at the worst possible time as finding a green with a wedge from the middle of the fairway suddenly became a Herculean task.
Snedeker salvaged a mediocre season with a win at the Wyndham Championship that also included a 59, but the sting of his collapse in wine country could linger.
“I’m going to look back on that one in a few years, really gave that one away,” Snedeker said. “I played probably 63 holes of pretty damn good golf and nine holes I’d like to have back.”
1. The Ryder Cup is already on Thomas Bjorn’s mantle, and debris on the grounds at Le Golf National has (probably) been cleared. But the fallout from the U.S. side continues.
First it was Patrick Reed’s explosive comments, then the questions about a possible schism in the Dustin Johnson-Brooks Koepka bromance. Add in Phil Mickelson’s gripes about course setup and it’s clear that no one can match the dramatics of the American squad when the Cup heads back across the Atlantic.
The post-mortems will likely be less exhaustive than they were in 2014 at Gleneagles, when formative changes were sparked. But the Ryder Cup questions won’t stop anytime soon for Reed, who is expected to tee it up again in Asia in a couple weeks. Same goes for Jordan Spieth, who bristled at the length of time he had to answer queries about his 2016 Masters collapse and could be getting Reed-related questions well into 2019.
2. After reading about the fallout all week in various reports, U.S. captain Jim Furyk has spoken out.
Furyk sat with Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte for a lengthy interview, with topics ranging from Tiger and Phil to the course setup at Le Golf National and the altercation that did or did not occur between Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
But Furyk’s most telling comments centered around Reed, who painted a picture of a “buddy system” that didn’t take into account input from all players. According to Furyk, Reed knew about his pairing with Woods ahead of time and even chatted with the captain about which specific tee time he wanted during Friday’s opening session.
“They knew,” Furyk said of the quartet of Woods, Reed, Spieth and Justin Thomas. “All four players knew who they’d be playing with weeks in advance.”
3. While the Euros likely had a few headaches Monday morning (more on that below), the notion of a Ryder Cup hangover might be a bit overrated.
Of the four players who stayed across the Atlantic to play in the Dunhill Links, each one cracked the top 10: Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood both tied for second, while Americans Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka finished T-9.
For Hatton and Fleetwood, it was probably a chance to keep the good vibes flowing. For Finau and Koepka, it may have been a respite to get back to the grind after a forgettable finish in Paris.
4. The LPGA made a gamble by taking the UL International Crown to South Korea, and the scene that played out during Sunday’s conclusion validated the risk.
Fans flocked to Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, creating crowds that dwarf those that gather when women’s majors are at stake in the U.S. The partisan crowds were rewarded when the home team held off squads from the U.S. and England to win for the first time.
While the tournament suffered because of a typhoon-induced washout Saturday, the full-throated conclusion showed that the Crown is here to stay – and will probably be back in Korea sooner rather than later.
5. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan created this event in part to offer a team environment for Asian players who aren’t eligible for the biennial Solheim Cup. Consider that another victory.
With Ariya Jutanugarn chipping in to get Thailand into the singles’ round and In Gee Chun going 4-0 for the victorious Koreans, it’s clear that many of the top-ranked players in the world are relishing the opportunity to play for pride and country. Kudos to all involved.
6. It was a tale of two weeks for two of the biggest American stars. Lexi Thompson impressed, going 3-0-1 with a singles halve coming only once the overall outcome was decided. Michelle Wie, on the other hand, went 1-3. She told reporters that she had to re-work her swing because of a lingering injury, tailoring her move after Steve Stricker. The aesthetics are there, but the results remain a work in progress.
7. Leave it to Phil Mickelson to carry the dramatics of his 2018 into a new PGA Tour season.
Lefty was the only player to make the intercontinental trek from Paris to Napa, and after a disastrous Ryder Cup, he started the Safeway Open with a bogey-free 65 – which he promptly called fool’s gold.
“Don’t let the good round fool you,” Mickelson said. “I’m not at my best. But today, a few things clicked and it was fun.”
Those comments proved prescient, as Mickelson faded during a third-round 74 that included an iron tee shot on a short par-4 that landed OB. He left wine country with a T-17 finish, although a win still might not have cracked the top five Phil storylines of the year.
8. Before the weekend fade, Mickelson grabbed more headlines with a sharp critique of last week’s Ryder Cup setup.
“The fact is they had brutal rough, almost unplayable, and that’s not the way I play,” he said. “I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore. It’s a waste of my time.”
While some viewed Lefty’s critiques as sour grapes, when taken in context, they reinforced the notion that the Europeans did the right thing by tightening the French fairways and growing out the rough. Le Golf National turned into a bona fide home course advantage (just as Hazeltine was for the Americans in 2016). Just don’t expect Mickelson to head back over for a French Open anytime soon.
As fans can recall from the 2015 Open, sometimes things can get weird at the Old Course. But a shotgun start?
That’s what European Tour officials resorted to Sunday, with stiff winds threatening to postpone the conclusion of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. And you know what? It kind of worked.
The setup created some real-time drama as Tyrrell Hatton’s lead collapsed, and Lucas Bjerregaard made his charge. It also had the unintentional wrinkle of having Bjerregaard finish on the Road Hole, equal parts difficult and iconic.
When he dropped a shot, the scene shifted a few hundred yards away to Hatton, who missed a putt on No. 18 that would have forced a playoff. Once again, the cozy confines and open sight lines of St. Andrews only served to ratchet up the drama.
Still waiting to find out who won closest to the pin on No. 11, though.
This week’s award winners …
We’ve All Been There: To hard-partying Tyrrell Hatton, who admitted that the post-Ryder Cup euphoria led to him waking up “next to the toilet” in his hotel Monday morning. He brushed away the cobwebs admirably, coming oh-so-close to a Dunhill Links three-peat.
Speaking of Three-Peats: With Brendan Steele’s T-53 finish, five different players have come up short in the last year in their effort to become the first to three-peat on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic (2009-11). Next up? Brooks Koepka at Pebble Beach.
Turn Back the Clock: Fred Couples. Mr. Smooth told reporters at the start of the week this would likely be his last PGA Tour start outside the Masters, but then he fired a second-round 65 at age 59 to make his 500th career cut. He ended up in a respectable tie for 41st.
Fashionistas: Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler donned “I Made Tiger Great Again” t-shirts over the weekend while celebrating Woods’ Tour Championship win. Always good to keep a sense of humor about things.
Back in the Winner’s Circle: Jonathan Smart. More than two years after guiding Danny Willett to his Masters triumph, Smart celebrated Sunday in St. Andrews as caddie for Bjerregaard’s breakthrough win.
Get Used to the Name: Sungjae Im. The Korean led the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire in 2018, and he promptly finished T-4 in his first PGA Tour start as a member. It’s not if but when he improves on that result.
Masters Bound: Takumi Kanaya, who rallied to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur in Singapore. Hopefully Hideki Matsuyama can find some time in his Augusta practice schedule next spring to play a few holes with the 20-year-old who followed in his APAC footsteps.
Taking the Scenic Route: Aaron Baddeley. The 37-year-old lost his PGA Tour card last season and had to Monday qualify for Safeway. He turned that opportunity into a T-4 finish that moved him a big step toward solidifying status for (gulp) 2020.