SHANGHAI – Alexander Levy sent his 40-foot putt across the sixth green and down a steep ridge toward the cup, and when it curled in the left side, he turned toward his caddie with arms raised and a smile that lit up Lake Malaren on an overcast day. Just about everything is going right for Levy at the BMW Masters. The Frenchman piled up nine more birdies Saturday on his way to a 9-under 63, giving him a four-shot lead over Jamie Donaldson of Wales and leaving him on the cusp of his third victory this year on the European Tour. ”I play good golf and it’s true, I am confident,” Levy said. ”You don’t have that (confidence) a lot of time, and I need to enjoy this moment and do my best tomorrow.” He had no choice but to keep making birdies. So was everyone else on an extraordinary day of scoring. Donaldson holed out for eagle on the tough 16th hole in his round of 62 and he barely made up any ground. Justin Rose followed a 65 with a 64 on Saturday and actually lost ground to Levy. ”I think I’ve done my part, but I didn’t bank on everyone else going as low as they are,” said Rose, who was seven shots back. ”Obviously, Mr. Levy is going ridiculous out there. I would have thought I’d be in a bit better shape going into Sunday than I am, but obviously every credit to the lads that are keeping it going.” Marcel Siem of Germany shot a 65 and still was five shots behind. He lost more than just a few strokes to Levy. He also lost some money. They have been betting 200 euros (about $250) each round on who has the better score. Levy got him twice in the 36-hole event he won in Portugal three weeks ago. The only round Siem didn’t lose money was on Friday when both shot 66. ”I think I chose the wrong opponent,” Siem said. ”But it’s crazy when you’re 17-under par and you lose every round against him – yesterday I tied. But it’s good for him. He’s a great lad and he’s playing unbelievable golf at the moment. Tough to beat him, and I’ll try my best tomorrow. we’ll see.” About the only one who didn’t keep pace was Nicolas Colsaerts. He missed an 8-foot birdie attempt on the first hole and kept falling further behind until he finished with a double bogey out of the bunker on the 18th hole for a 73. Colsaerts went from a one-shot lead to nine shots behind. Levy was at 22-under 194 as he goes after his third title of the year on the European Tour. He already is the first Frenchman with multiple wins in one season. ”I played an amazing round,” Levy said. ”I enjoy a lot the way I played the first three rounds, and it was a good, good game. And I look to do my best tomorrow and try to play the same golf and to be aggressive like the first round.” The BMW Masters is the first of four tournaments in ”The Finals Series” that wrap up the European Tour season. The conditions have been soft and overcast all week in Shanghai, with players allowed to lift, clean and replace their golf balls within one club because of the wet turf. Levy likes to take dead aim – he calls it ”target golf” – and the soggy turf of Lake Malaren suits him perfectly. He opened with a 9-iron to about 6 feet for birdie, stuffed a wedge in close for birdie on the second and hit another wedge close on the par-5 third. Even though Colsaerts was some 40 yards beyond him on the par-5 seventh, Levy hit his approach 10 feet closer and both made two-putt birdies. Levy played with Colsaerts and Romain Wattel of France, with whom he is sharing a room this week. ”Impressive game,” Wattel said to him after the round, and there was no denying that. Siem was alone in third at 17-under 199. Rose, who opened with a 72, was at 15-under 201 and trying to figure out how he can make up so much ground with one round remaining. His only hope was for Levy to come back to the field. ”If Alex has a bad day, then you look at the second guy – Jamie at 18 (under) and maybe I’m three behind,” Rose said. ”I always try to look at it like that because you never know what the leader is going to face on a Sunday, so you always have look at second and go from there. So in with a half-chance.” Colsaerts and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (69) were nine shots behind. Graeme McDowell, needing two good finishes during the Shanghai swing to become entrenched in the top 15 on the Race to Dubai, had a 68 and is playing for position. Levy has not shown any signs of cracking. ”You’ve got to go out there and play well to catch him,” Donaldson said.
OCALA, Fla. – Jessica Korda would like to make a habit of winning the LPGA season opener. Stacy Lewis would like to prevent that habit from forming after losing to Korda in a dramatic finish at last year’s season opener. Azahara Munoz would like to take the next step to the elite level in the women’s game. All three are in position after taking a share of the first-round lead Wednesday at the Coates Golf Championship at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. With 6-under-par 66s, they’re one shot ahead of Austin Ernst and Ha Na Jang, and two shots ahead of Lydia Ko and Na Yeon Choi. Lexi Thompson is three back. With a cold, blustery morning greeting players for the opening of the LPGA’s 2015 season, the leaders got hot late. Korda, Lewis and Munoz all barely beat the horn to suspend play with darkness falling at day’s end. Twenty players were still on the course when play was halted. They’ll return at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to finish the first round with the second round planned to begin as scheduled at the same time. Coates Golf Championship: Articles, videos and photos Korda birdied two of the last three holes to move to the top of the leaderboard. Munoz birdied the last two holes to move into a tie for the lead. Lewis joined them making birdies at five of the last six holes. Korda, 21, is looking to win the LPGA’s season opener for the third time in her career. She won the LPGA’s first event last year, outplaying Lewis at the end to win the Pure Silk Bahamas. Korda also won the Women’s Australian Open when it was the LPGA’s season opener in 2012. “I honestly don’t know what it is,” Korda said. “I’m just happy to be back. It’s so much fun. It’s like the first day of school.” Korda is seeking her fourth LPGA title. Lewis, 29, is seeking to build on her success after sweeping the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and money-winning title last year. She was the first American to sweep those honors since Betsy King did it in 1993, and yet Lewis ended 2014 lamenting the chances that got away. Count last year’s season opener among them. Korda birdied the last hole in the Bahamas last year to beat Lewis by a shot. Though Lewis won three times last season, she left the year kicking herself over six second-place finishes. Lewis said those second-place finishes were the difference in what could have been “an unbelievable year.” So Lewis will be looking to take advantage of more of those opportunities to win when she’s in the hunt this year. She liked the way she got this season started with that strong closing kick Wednesday at Golden Ocala. “On the back nine, I kind of got more comfortable, just back playing again, and just started hitting golf shots,” Lewis said. “Had a couple birdies that were just tap-ins, which helped, and rolled a few putts in. So, it was a good day.” Munoz, 27, is looking to add to her lone LPGA title, her Sybase Match Play Championship in 2012. She has made terrific runs, including last year’s close calls. She finished fourth or better five times last year, including a pair of runner-up finishes. She lost to Paula Creamer in a playoff at the HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore, where Creamer beat her with a 75-foot eagle putt. “I’ve been knocking on the door so many times, but it hasn’t happened, but I know I’m so close,” Munoz said. “Last year was so close to an amazing year for me. “So when I started to practice in January, I was super focused. I’m ready to have a good year. I know if I play the way I can, improving a few things, I can be pretty good out here.”
As Tiger Woods chunked and skulled his way to a missed cut last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, there was a large sense of disbelief. There were questions left unanswered, and there was uncertainty about what next to expect. For one man, though, there was work to do. Jeff Sherman is the assistant manager at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and a one-man band when it comes to setting and adjusting weekly betting odds for golf tournaments. As Woods misfired on chip after chip, Sherman knew that he would have to adjust his odds for the Farmers Insurance Open. But how, and by how much? Setting prices on golfers to win PGA Tour events is a soft science, but even more so when it comes to the most popular player in the game. “He’s the one guy that’s the most tricky because over the years, no matter how poorly he’s playing, people back him,” said Sherman, who has been creating golf odds at Westgate since 2004. “I could put him at 20/1 and if his name didn’t say ‘Tiger Woods,’ he could have been listed at 80/1. But you just get that type of action on him.” Sherman had listed Woods at 20/1 to win last week in Phoenix, and he knew that number would be going up significantly for this week’s event. His usual process starts by surveying the field list upon its release the Friday prior to gauge its overall strength. From there, he’ll factor in a player’s current form and his past history at a given venue. Track records don’t get much better than Woods’ profile at Torrey Pines, where he has seven Farmers titles in addition to his 2008 U.S. Open win. His short-game struggles were so troubling, though, that Sherman basically had to ignore his past success while assigning odds of 50/1. “Obviously he’s going to a course he’s had tremendous history on, but you have to find a certain weight between history and current form,” he told GolfChannel.com on Tuesday. “The current form is throwing his history out the window this week.” Farmers Insurance Open : Articles, videos and photos Sherman’s goal in setting odds is not to offer a prediction on the event, but simply to generate a balanced level of wagers. The key for him is finding a number that will attract bettors, but not one that will create a significant liability for the house should the player win. “We’re pushing to get the action, but the problem is if I was less or much less (than 50/1 on Woods), I don’t think I’d get many bets at all based on what everyone saw,” he said. “I’m just trying to find the number to get the action.” To understand the new depths reached this week, it helps to remember the heights once achieved by Woods – even from a betting standpoint. The last four times he has played this event, his highest pre-tournament odds with Sherman were 7/1 in 2013. He went on to win that event by four shots. Back in 2008, he was listed at even money (1/1) to win the Farmers, which he did. After winning each of his first three starts to begin the year, he then played Doral as a massive 10/13 favorite, meaning bettors had to lay $13 to win $10. Even at the 2010 Masters, when Woods was making his return from a scandal and surrounded by more questions than answers, he still had lower odds than any other player in the field at 11/2. Just last year, he was listed as a 2/1 favorite at Torrey Pines. “The crazy thing was that I opened the odds at 5/2 and I took a large wager on him to drive the odds down to 2/1,” Sherman recalled. But now, with his swing still a work in progress and his short game nowhere to be seen, Woods opened at 50/1. It’s the highest number Sherman has ever assigned to the 14-time major winner, surpassing his 30/1 pre-tournament odds at last year’s PGA Championship. Sherman’s focus also extends beyond this week’s event along the California coast. He posted full-field odds to win the Masters back in August, listing Woods at 12/1 behind only Rory McIlroy (5/1). This weekend’s result caused him to make his first adjustment to Woods’ odds for Augusta, dropping him to 20/1 alongside Phil Mickelson and behind Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth at 15/1. “With it being that far out and with him having the ability to get some tournament golf under his belt before it happens, you just can’t be overly aggressive,” he said. “He has that extra time to be able to prep and get his form up, so you make the adjustment but you just don’t make too large of an adjustment this far out.” As expected, Woods’ lofty price has drawn attention from the Las Vegas betting community. Sherman released his Farmers odds on Monday, and less than 24 hours later Woods had surpassed Mickelson as the player with the most wagers. Sherman is confident that trend will continue into Wednesday, when his sports book receives an estimated 80 percent of its golf wagers, and that Woods will ultimately lead the ticket count this week. While Sherman had kept his odds on Woods steady at 50/1 despite an early influx of wagers, he moved them to 40/1 by Tuesday evening. Some offshore outlets were even quicker to adjust their prices; BetOnline.ag opened Woods at 50/1 to win on Monday and was offering him at 33/1 Tuesday, while Sportsbook.ag and Bovada.lv had both trimmed Woods to 30/1. Dave Mason, a manager at BetOnline.ag, noted that their potential liability on Woods is 20 times higher than that of their next biggest exposure, Dustin Johnson. “Although public action has decreased on Tiger the last couple of years, he is by far our biggest exposure this weekend due to the very long odds,” Mason said. Sherman doesn’t foresee the odds on Woods getting much higher than their current level when he makes his next start, which is expected to be the Honda Classic later this month. “If he makes an improvement and just barely misses the cut, you’ll probably see a decrease in his odds. People will think he’ll be able to gain more next time,” he said. “For an increase to happen, he’s going to have to finish a couple spots higher or right about where he finished (last week) for things to really go up much more.”
PRETORIA, South Africa – Adrian Otaegui of Spain shot an 8-under 62 Friday to take a two-shot lead at the Tshwane Open in South Africa. Otaegui had a small chance to shoot the first 59 in European Tour history when he needed to pick up two shots on the last two holes. But he settled for par on No. 17 after just missing a chip-in for birdie, and then bogeyed his last hole, his only dropped shot of the day. The 22-year-old Otaegui still made nine birdies at the par-70 Pretoria Country Club, jumping 18 places up the leaderboard and moving to 11-under 129. South Africa’s Merrick Bremner was second on 9 under after a 66. Overnight co-leader David Horsey dropped three shots off the lead in a tie for third on 8 under with Keith Horne, Edoardo Molinari and Trevor Fisher Jr. Fisher, who won the Africa Open last weekend, made four straight birdies from No. 6, but also had three bogeys in his 66. Former Ryder Cup winner Molinari was in position for his first victory on the tour in five years after a second straight 66, with four birdies and no bogeys. Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark, who shared the first-round lead with Horsey, dropped to a tie for 13th after a 72. European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke boosted his chances of a top-10 finish with a 67 to move to 2 under.
SAN FRANCISCO – In a special, #ThrowBackThursday moment at Harding Park, Billy Horschel was asked what he remembered about the 2007 Walker Cup. “I don’t remember anything,” he deadpanned with only the slightest hint of sheepishness. You may not know this about BillyHo, but he can trend to the Lewis Black side of boisterous, so when the 20-year-old version was sent afield to play for his country at the ’07 Walker Cup he openly admits he may have toed the line of decorum in what turned into a particularly heated match. When pressed for more details from his week at Royal County Down, Horschel recalled playing Rory McIlroy three times (twice in singles). He remembers the emotions of playing for the United States and his teammates. He remembers wanting to win so badly that he may have let those emotions get the best of him. “I was a very confident, could be called a cocky person, a very emotional person about things, especially in that match,” Horschel said Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. McIlroy – who would drop two matches to Horschel at that Walker Cup, including a Saturday singles match, before exacting a measure of redemption with a dominant victory over Horschel in Sunday singles – remembers things slightly differently. WGC-Cadillac Match Play: Articles, videos and photos “His antics really pissed me off,” McIlroy told Golf Digest in 2008. “He was so loud and so obnoxious.” By comparison, Friday’s final group match between the world No. 1 and the reigning FedEx Cup champion at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play will undoubtedly follow Queensbury rules, yet it still has all the markings of the week’s most compelling bout. For all the misgivings of the new-look WGC-Match Play, confusion over the round-robin format being the primary culprit, it was the potential of just this type of scenario that made all of the mind-numbing math manageable. “When I saw my group I was like, well, that’s not the easiest one,” Horschel said of McIlroy’s group, which includes Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner. “I thought if you can get out of that group you’ve done something special.” To the delight of organizers, the cosmic tumblers delivered Friday’s title bout. McIlroy cruised to victory on Day 1, beating Dufner, 5 and 4, and he edged Snedeker, 2 up, on Thursday. While Horschel rolled past Snedeker in Round 1, 5 and 4, and was a 3-and-2 winner over Dufner on Day 2. Whoever wins Friday’s match advances to the Sweet 16 and single elimination on Saturday. It’s one of just four matches on Friday between unbeaten players, bringing a rare level of certainty to an event that seems to have lost a measure of intrigue with the endless permutations brought on by the new format. That the Rory vs. BillyHo duel rekindles a rivalry that was born from those ’07 matches is only part of the Hollywood-ready script. As recently as last fall McIlroy and Horschel were set against each other on another bright stage. McIlroy, who began last year’s playoffs first in FedEx Cup points, was paired with Horschel the last two rounds at East Lake. The American beat the Northern Irishman by a stroke over those two days and, more importantly, won the finale and the season-long race. “If he wins the Tour Championship and wins the FedEx Cup that’s probably one of the top-five greatest seasons of all time,” Horschel said. “I stopped him from that. If anything, he’s going to come out with a little bit more, not that he needs it, but a little more fuel to maybe redeem himself.” Both players were clear that they put the contentiousness of the ’07 Walker Cup behind them long ago. When Horschel lost the Deutsche Bank Championship on the 72nd hole last year, McIlroy was there to console him. Horschel encouraged McIlroy when he was going through a slump in 2013. “Back then we were a little bit younger and a little more emotional,” McIlroy said. “It was pretty heated. I don’t think tomorrow will be quite so much like that, but still you need to win or you go home.” In signature Horschel style, he referred to himself as a “road block” to McIlroy this week, similar to last year’s Tour Championship and perhaps even the ’07 Walker Cup. What’s different this time is that through age and injury both players have matured. There will be no histrionics like those on display eight years ago at Royal County Down. At those matches Horschel’s teammates – a list that included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Chris Kirk – nicknamed him “Steve O,” because his shaved head made him look like the main character from the TV show “Jackass.” “You know what, I probably was a jackass back then,” Horschel smiled. The difference this time is that on Friday he’ll simply be a world-class golfer playing a much-anticipated match that promises to be unforgettable.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – There are obvious benefits to those practice-round money games: bragging rights, hitting shots that matter, and, yes, a little extra pocket change when things work out, as they did here Tuesday, with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas handing Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler a 1-up defeat. But for Spieth, the more important work was done Wednesday at Whistling Straits. Throwing down balls in gnarly rough, sizing up runoffs and slashing out of the inconsistent bunkers, he treated his nine-hole practice round like a complex math equation, testing all of the variables, trying to find the best solution. It was Spieth at his tactical best, and it’s one of the biggest – and most underappreciated – reasons why he has climbed to No. 2 in the world in only his third year as a pro. “He’s always been really high on the golf IQ spectrum,” said Spieth’s instructor, Cameron McCormick. “I call it tactical intelligence. He takes in information really, really quickly, and he can go from very broad to very narrow and center in on it, whether he’s looking at a yardage book, or whether he’s played the hole only once.” Indeed, for all of Spieth’s myriad gifts – his envy-inducing short game, his magical putter, his relentless attitude – this is arguably his most impressive: He’s proven to be a quick study. Spieth began the 2013 season with no status on any major tour, playing courses that he had seen only on TV. Rookies typically struggle their first year out as they adjust to life on the road or a full schedule, but not this kid. He shot 13 rounds of 65 or better, won once, posted three runners-up, recorded nine top-10s and 13 top-25s and, perhaps most impressive, missed only five cuts. How was he able to adapt so quickly? PGA Championship: Full-field tee times “I didn’t really have another choice,” he said. “You either do it or you don’t have a job. If you don’t learn quickly how to play golf courses that you haven’t played before, you’re going to be very, very far behind. I don’t know how, other than just realizing that it was live or die.” In preparation for his first Masters, Spieth played Augusta National with McCormick in fall 2013. One of McCormick’s biggest takeaways was that, surprisingly, it didn’t require a tremendous amount of prior knowledge. Sure enough, Spieth shot par or better all four rounds in his debut, shared the 54-hole lead and tied for second. He won the very next year, of course, and tied the tournament scoring record. TPC Sawgrass is one of the most diabolical layouts on the Tour schedule, a design that usually requires years of trial and error to learn the best angles of attack. Yet in his first start there as a pro, Spieth shared the third-round lead. Course knowledge can be just as important as form at St. Andrews. Spieth had seen the most famous links in the world only once in person, during a round with some of his Walker Cup teammates in 2011, and then on his home simulator. He arrived for the biggest tournament of his life late on a Monday, played a full practice round, and added 28 more holes over the next two days. After playing the Wednesday practice round on the Old Course, it became apparent to McCormick that they hadn’t gathered all of the information that they needed. With the shifting winds, they didn’t know the line for the layup to the left of the fairway on the par-5 14th. It was a point of reference that Spieth would need to draw from, so after the round caddie Michael Greller headed back out to the hole and jotted down a few notes. The next day, with all of the Grand Slam hype swirling around him, Spieth shot 67 in the opening round. “It’s about paying attention,” said McCormick, who was recently named the PGA National Teacher of the Year. “The player that maybe is complacent and talking to his player partners, the player who maybe is more interested in the social aspect just as much as the exercise of playing a practice round, that player might miss that. And then he might get to that situation and say, ‘Now what do I do?’ You hit a shot with certain unknowns. And when you’re competing and trying to beat the best players in the world, unknowns are bad.” Which is why Spieth tries hard to eliminate them, running through every possible scenario, even if only for a few seconds. On the fourth green Wednesday, he looked back down the fairway, almost as if there was a thought cloud above his head. “He was thinking to himself: ‘Is this a realistic place that I can miss it? Will it roll up into the rough or will it stay in this collection area?’” McCormick said later. “That’s telling to the type of tactician that he is, and how he can deduce very quickly what is the likely miss and where do I need to practice from.” This wasn’t a trait drilled into Spieth by his instructor. Heck, during Spieth’s junior days, McCormick traveled with his pupil to only a few of the big tournaments each year, such as the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur. “It’s his own intelligence that he’s developed over time, just recognizing that I need to create a competitive advantage,” McCormick said. Well, Spieth has certainly put that advantage to good use this season. In the first three majors, he is a combined 37 under par – 14 shots better than the next best player, Louis Oosthuizen. Now comes the PGA, held on another venue where, on paper, he would seem to be at a disadvantage, having never played the course in competition. The last time Whistling Straits hosted a major, in 2010, Spieth was entering his senior year of high school. He saw the course for the first time a few days before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, in a 40-mph wind. This week, when he wasn’t taking money off Rickie and Phil, he was playing shots from the edge of the greens, where the bluegrass blends into the fescue and makes chipping difficult. Said McCormick: “There are mistakes that you can prevent by making sure that you’re observant rather than playing practice rounds where maybe they’re more into the exercise of playing 18 holes than what can do I today that will save me a stroke tomorrow? That’s the attitude Jordan takes. Always has.” And it’s one that’s proven quite successful.
The fallout from Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest gets all kinds of reaction from both sides, Jason Dufner poses with his newest trophy (and girlfriend) and a Paige Spiranac trick shot goes oh-so wrong for her volunteer. All that and more in this edition of The Social. Tiger Woods dominated the golf news cycle last week after getting busted for DUI near his home in Jupiter, Fla. By now, you know the details, have seen the videos and digested the takes. Oh the takes. Some copy editor has been waiting patiently their whole career for this exact Tiger Woods moment, so they could write this headline… pic.twitter.com/U1rAtYPswz— Name cannot be blank (@Burgerboxx) May 30, 2017 But perhaps the most telling opinions came from Tiger’s peers. Much like the average fan, they idolized this guy, he inspired them, and they just want to see him get batter and back on the golf course. Hey @TigerWoods, all of us who grew up watching you still love you. Everyone messes up. No one is perfect and we are still pulling for you.— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonPGA) June 2, 2017 Hard to argue that having a mentally and physically healthy Woods back on the course wouldn’t be best for everyone. What a story of redemption it would be. Once upon a time (four years ago), Jason Dufner was one of golf’s dullest stars, and we mean that in the most complimentary way. He was fresh off a major win, part of golf’s “IT” couple and using his wide-range of emotions to star in hilarious Funny or Die videos. Over the weekend he got some of that mojo back, looking very much like his old self, with a Memorial trophy in hand, a new girl on his arm and even something resembling a smile on his face. So who is this mystery women? Well, they once attended a Cleveland Cavaliers game together and according to CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz, her name is Jessica and … that’s all we know. So since our investigation has hit a roadblock, now seems like as good a time as any to look back on some of Duf Daddy’s finest moments, like, Vacation Duf. (Click here for more photos) Ever find yourself tossing and turning at night wondering what ever happened to that adorable dog Dufner used to parent. Yeah, he’s still living a pretty decent life. Adam Scott has politely asked the USGA to lighten up when it comes to setting up Erin Hills for next week’s U.S Open, saying “maybe it’s time to do away with the even-par target.” While the USGA hasn’t verbally responded, some recent photos and videos that have surfaced speak volumes. Holy wow! Here’s your @usopengolf previewpic.twitter.com/VDLUdYiF4o— Wesley Bryan (@wesleybryangolf) May 30, 2017 Yeah, 2-feet tall rough, nearly 700-yard holes. Good luck with that, guys. Maybe Phil Mickleson has the best strategy after all. Smoothest dude in the game. Try not to watch that more than once. You can’t. This just in. The President of the United States likes to play golf, a lot. And he’s not big on getting after it alone. In his short time in office, Donald Trump has played with the likes of Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and over the weekend, he added two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning to the list of partners. You’re not going to believe this, but people were not happy. And then other people were not happy that those people weren’t happy. And all of these people met up at this awful place called Twitter to air their grievances. Here’s a sampling: Peyton Manning golfed with President Trump today and Dems are losing their minds.Another GREAT day in America#SundayFunday— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) June 4, 2017 Just a reminder that this won’t end until somebody pins Frank Costanza. Your semi-weekly reminder to not volunteer to be a tee, even for a professional golfer. Paige Spiranac teamed up with Barstool Sports and attempted a trick shot off of Barstool Trent’s backside. From the looks of the “after” photo, we’re guessing things didn’t go exactly as planned: This same guy volunteered his face for Spiranac last year, so all things considered, things could be worse, much worse. Genius! Sabatoge your best chance to win an event in over three years so that you can get more face time on TV, because contending and winning wouldn’t have done that. Our readers are onto you, Paula. On. To. You.
Rory McIlroy zeroes in on Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson discovers life outside the top 50, Tiger Woods readies to make his Presidents Cup picks, Brendon Todd comes (all the way) back, the LPGA Q-Series delivers drama and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: THE TAKEAWAY Guess who’s back atop the FedExCup standings? It’s the same guy who finished the 2018-19 season in the No. 1 spot: Rory McIlroy. The somewhat-controversial choice for PGA Tour Player of the Year is already off to an auspicious start this season, after McIlroy captured his third career World Golf Championship with a playoff victory at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. It’s McIlroy’s fourth title in his past 15 Tour starts, which is important because he’s now closing in on Brooks Koepka’s No. 1 ranking (more on that below) and setting the stage for an titanic tilt in 2020. It’s mathematically impossible for McIlroy to reclaim the top spot before the calendar flips. But if he continues this torrid form into the next year, are you going to bet against him topping King Koepka? THE SCORECARD Getty Images 1. Koepka said there’s no rivalry in golf. And maybe there isn’t. At least not yet, anyway. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Koepka and McIlroy are at the top of the class, and everyone else has work to reach them. Here’s how those two players were positioned in the world ranking on Aug. 4, 2019: 1.) Koepka: 12.8336 3.) McIlroy: 8.5373 And here’s how they sit now, with McIlroy scheduled to only appear once more, at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai: 1.) Koepka: 11.4673 2.) McIlroy: 10.3837 (Happy Gilmore voice) Somebodddddddy’s closerrrrrrrr. 2. McIlroy was typically excellent in defeating a world-class field in China. He was bogey-free across his last 39 holes (including weekend rounds of 67-68), posted 19 under and played a perfect playoff hole to finally put away Xander Schauffele, hammering a majestic drive, blistering a 4-iron to 25 feet and then two-putting for the winning birdie. Seriously. Have you seen a prettier drive than this: 3. What a game effort from Schauffele, who battled remnants of the flu all week as he tried to defend his title in China. He said he hoped to channel Michael Jordan’s flu game for four rounds – and then ended up going into overtime against the hottest player in golf. Starting the final round two shots back, Schauffele closed with 66 (including a birdie on the 72nd hole) to force extras. Despite feeling under the weather, Schauffele made a whopping 28 birdies in 72 holes – five more than any player. 4. There’s one surefire way to get the stars to turn up during the supposedly sleepy part of the Tour schedule: No cut. Big money. Big points. That’s exactly what greeted the players who made the trek to Asia for the stretch of tournaments that included the CJ Cup, Zozo Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions. Not surprisingly, then, those events were won by three of the biggest stars in the sport: Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy. All three are ranked inside the top 7 in the world – enough star power (especially in Tiger’s case) to generate headlines even when it’s played in the heart of football season and broadcast live in the middle of the night on the East Coast. Though it’s early – really, really early – it also bodes well for the Tour moving forward that these guys are leading the charge in the season-long points race. 5. What was inevitable finally became official on Sunday: Phil Mickelson dropped out of the top 50 in the world rankings. It’s the first time he’s done that since November 1993. Wrote more about that here – and how Mickelson’s run of consistent excellence isn’t likely to be matched anytime soon, if ever – and why it’s the end of an era. In other news, he doesn’t have a top-25 finish in 14 starts. Mickelson should be in Australia – but as one of Woods’ assistant captains. Speaking of which … Getty Images 6. Both Woods (Thursday) and International captain Ernie Els (Wednesday) will make their wild-card selections this week. There are myriad ways they can go with their picks but it’s instructive to remember that the biennial matches are 10-1-1 in the U.S. team’s favor. And that the Internationals were nearly closed out on Saturday last time. If ever there’s a time for Els to take a risk, it’s now. Who Els SHOULD pick: • Jason Day • Sungjae Im • Joaquin Niemann • Corey Conners Why: Day balances out the three rookies, all of whom have been playing well of late and could add a much-needed spark. Who Els WILL pick: • Jason Day • Sungjae Im • Joaquin Niemann • Byeong-Hun An Why: Though Els would love to pick Branden Grace instead of another rookie, the South African has been mired in a miserable slump, including a missed cut in Bermuda. He doesn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since Super Bowl Sunday. An posted three consecutive top-15s during the Asian swing and has been a near-miss each of the past two cups. The U.S. side is a little more complex, especially with Woods all but certain to pick himself after his rousing performance at the Zozo. Also complicating matters is the health status of Koepka and Dustin Johnson, each of whom is recovering from an offseason knee procedure. If they’re unable to go in Royal Melbourne, Woods is allowed to choose anyone to replace him. Who Woods SHOULD pick: • Tiger Woods • Tony Finau • Gary Woodland • Patrick Reed Why: Woods himself is a no-brainer, while Finau narrowly missed the qualifying cutoff and Woodland, after winning the U.S. Open and discovering his new normal, showed up during the Asian swing. Reed’s final audition was a T-8 in China – his 10th top-20 in his last 13 starts, including a win during the playoffs. Who Woods WILL pick: • Tiger Woods • Tony Finau • Gary Woodland • Rickie Fowler Why: The newly married Fowler is the only question mark, but he showed plenty of flashes this year and is able to be paired with anyone on the team. Fowler’s selection would also (intentionally or not) send a message to Reed that his Ryder Cup comments had consequences. Getty Images 7. In the inaugural Bermuda Championship, Brendon Todd authored one of the greatest comeback stories of the year. Todd was a one-time Tour winner (2014 Byron Nelson) but he’d fallen on such hard times recently that as of this time last year he instructed his manager to start looking into his post-golf career options. There was reason to start searching: He’d battled the full-swing yips, fallen outside the top 2,000 in the world and at one point missed 39 of 44 cuts on Tour. Desperate for a fix, Todd hooked up with swing coach Bradley Hughes and read former MLB player Rick Ankiel’s book about the yips, finding comfort in the struggle. The inconsistency remained – he’s missed nine cuts this calendar year, including four in a row before Bermuda – but he earned back his Tour card with a tie for second at one of the Korn Ferry Tour playoff events. He was incredible in Bermuda, none more so than during the final day, when he went 9 under for the first 11 holes and cruised to a 62 and four-shot win. “I’m thrilled, over the moon,” he said. “This is just a dream come true and hopefully a springboard to a really long, successful career out here.” THE WTH? MOMENT OF THE WEEK It started innocently enough, like this: But then it blew up into much, much more. In the sixth of the eighth-round Q-Series tournament that determines LPGA status for 2020, Christina Kim spotted a rules infraction when one of her playing competitors signaled to another player’s caddie asking for confirmation of a club choice on a par 3. Players and caddies try to glean this information all the time, of course, but never so explicitly. They usually just peek into the player’s bag to inform their decision. Kim didn’t tell her playing partners of the rules breach at the time and instead waited until after the round. Then she posted that cryptic message on Twitter, followed by dozens more, in which she attempted to explain her side of the story. Kim wasn’t wrong to bring up the infraction after the round – doing so in the middle of the round, especially during the high-stakes event, could have negatively impacted the players. Instead, they blew up on their own and failed to earn LPGA status. (You can read more about it here.) Still, at least one of the players wasn’t happy with Kim – not for notifying officials of a rules breach (she owned that mistake), but rather the way Kim aired her out publicly. A couple of things here: 1.) No, Kim should not have taken to social media to discuss the incident. That’s unprofessional. 2.) Dear Kendall Dye: Learn the rules. 3.) Poor Dewi Weber, who was still dinged two shots even though she had no knowledge of the club-selection help. TAKE A BOW This week’s award winners … Getty Images The Bump is Real: Nelly Korda. Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence, but since the Solheim Cup loss the Americans have won in bunches, with Cheyenne Knight, Danielle Kang and now Nelly Korda winning in a five-start span. Better late than never. Taking It Deep: Julia Johnson and Parker Gillam. The Ole Miss junior tied the NCAA women’s record for lowest 18-hole score with an 11-under 61 to win TCU’s tournament on Sunday, while Wake Forest’s Gillam, playing as an individual, fired a 60 on his way to a win in the Bahamas. Arizona You Love to See It: Haley Moore. Earlier this year we documented the difficult journey of Moore, who was bullied as a kid and then blossomed into an NCAA hero. Well, she earned her LPGA card through the Q-Series, and the tears understandably flowed afterward. Awesome stuff. Decisions, Decisions …: Five college players advanced to the Q-Series finals and now have a life-changing decision on their hands. Jennifer Chang (USC) and Frida Kinhult (Florida State) have already decided to leave school and turn pro, but Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela (full LPGA card) and Andrea Lee (limited) both earned LPGA status and could begin at the start of the 2020 season or defer until after NCAAs in May. Florida’s Sierra Brooks also must weigh whether to return for the spring semester of her senior year or journey to the Symetra circuit. The Heir to the King’s Throne: Chase Koepka. Brooks’ younger brother is on to the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, ensuring that he’ll at least receive some starts on the developmental circuit next year. Most importantly: He’s earned this on his own, not because of his famous surname. Getty Images New Voice: Davis Love III. The 21-time Tour winner has officially turned the page on his playing career, signing on with CBS to be a full-time TV analyst. He’ll be used to replace Peter Kostis and Gary McCord, who were let go last month. Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Tony Finau. If he wanted to leave Captain Woods with one final impression, it wasn’t a good one – Finau shot weekend rounds of 75-76 to tumble down the leaderboard and tie for 53rd. That’s a far cry from his past results at Sheshan International and marked back-to-back rough starts in Asia (T-59 at Zozo). Sigh.
BIRMINGHAM, England — Eddie Pepperell holed a birdie putt from 40 feet on the 18th to take a one-shot lead after the third round of the British Masters and move into position to win the event for the second time in four years. The English golfer shot a second straight 4-under 68 at The Belfry to jump to 10 under par and emerge from a logjam at the top of the leaderboard. Six players were one stroke off the lead — Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and Calum Hill (both 70), Italians Edoardo Molinari (64) and Guido Migliozzo (67), Poland’s Adrian Meronk (65) and South Africa’s Dean Burmester (65) — and the top 26 players were separated by five shots. Tournament host Danny Willett was three shots off the lead after a 68. Pepperell leads at Betfred British Masters Pepperell was in the world’s top 35 after winning this event at Walton Heath in 2018 and again after finishing runner-up in his title defense at Hillside, but has fallen down the rankings. He began the week in 210th. “(Confidence returns) quite quickly, although I’ve been awful to be honest so I don’t feel that confident,” Pepperell said. “I’ve still got things going on in the swing that I can feel aren’t where they once were and can cause me aggro, so the game still feels difficult. I remember the game feeling easier when I was playing better a few years ago. That’s what I’m trying to get back to and I’m confident I will.” Full-field scores from the Betfred British Masters MacIntyre, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 45 and tied for the lead after the second round, dropped only one shot when he could not resist attempting to drive the green on the 10th. The left-hander vowed to maintain his positive approach in the final round. “The way I play golf is aggressive and the course suits me perfectly,” he said. “I didn’t drive it my best today but I hit my irons beautifully, they were all over the pin but the putter was cold. It was on fire the day before so hopefully it turns up tomorrow.” Molinari surged into contention for a first victory since 2017 after finally finding a solution to his putting problems. The 40-year-old Italian made nine birdies, with a lesson from the brother of fellow professional Chris Paisley on Tuesday quickly paying dividends.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Phil Mickelson was 11 shots worse than his previous round at Quail Hollow. Bryson DeChambeau made an 8 on his 16th hole and headed straight for the exit. Turns out nothing was as bad as it seemed Friday in the Wells Fargo Championship. Morning gusts gave way to a relentless wind in the afternoon and had just about everyone trying to finish without too much damage. Former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland had a 2-under 69 in the morning and shared the 36-hole lead with Matt Wallace (67) and Patrick Rodgers (68). No one in the afternoon could catch them at 6-under 136. Rory McIlroy will be playing on the weekend for the first time in two months. He shot a 66, and by the end of the day, that was good for a tie for fifth, two shots out of the lead. As for Mickelson? Wells Fargo Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage Never mind that he followed a 64 with a 75, losing a little focus at the end when different swing thoughts entered his head on holes with water, the wrong kind of ripple effect. “I’m excited to be in contention heading into the weekend, and I know I’m playing well,” Mickelson said. DeChambeau had reason to leave. Two balls in the water on the par-5 seventh led to his triple bogey and sent him to a 74. He was just inside the top 100 when he left without speaking. And then the wind arrived, the scores shot up and he made the cut on the number at 2-over 144. “The hardest conditions I’ve played in a while,” Justin Thomas said after a 73 that included a three-putt double bogey on the par-3 13th. His downhill putt from 18 feet caught a gust so strong it stopped 4 feet short. “Even the downwind holes were hard,” said Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, who has lived in Texas the last 12 years where he described typical conditions as “windy or windier.” Being used to it doesn’t make it easy, though Ortiz managed a 68, the best score in the afternoon. That left him in the group at 4-under 138. What went wrong for Lefty in Rd. 2 at Quail Hollow Mickelson was in the group another shot behind, determined to put an end to a drought so severe that he hasn’t finished among the top 20 in nine months. Everything felt and looked so easy when he opened with a 64. This was more of a challenge, particularly late in the round, and Mickelson felt his focus lapsing again. He hit into the water on the 14th while deciding whether to hit a draw or a cut (he still managed par; his wedge game is still among the best). After a good tee shot on the par-5 16th, Mickelson wasn’t quite sure what to do with his next one. He pulled it well right of the green, and his high flop shot landed too far and went over the edge. He chipped poorly to about 12 feet and turned what looked to be a sure birdie into a bad bogey. Two holes later, he found the water on the par-5 17th for a double bogey. “The back nine, I just wasn’t sharp,” Mickelson said. “I think an example of what I’ve been talking about is on 17, we’re standing over the ball and I’m changing my mind and I’m changing the shot, moving the clubhead a little bit. Instead of backing away and kind of refocusing, I just hit it and I’m not really aware of what I’m doing. So I’ve got to fix that.” In his mind, he threw away two shots on both the 15th and 17th holes, the difference of a score at par. “I just can’t keep doing that,” Mickelson said. “I’m optimistic for the weekend, though. McIlroy started the second round outside the projected cut line. He has not made it to the weekend since Bay Hill two months ago, which is factual and lacking context. That amounts to only three tournaments – missed cuts at The Players Championship and Masters, not advancing from his group at Match Play. He turned it around quickly, starting with one of his few bad drives. This one on the 14th sailed well to the right of the bunkers, gallery, everything but the mansions just outside the property. He tried to land his wedge anywhere near the green, and just his good fortune, it trundled onto the putting surface and stopped a foot away. That sent him to five birdies over his next eight holes, and right in the mix. “That was probably the catalyst to going on a nice little run,” McIlroy said. Woodland was all smiles. He missed the cut badly last week at Innisbrook, called Butch Harmon and decided to go back to his previous coaches, Harmon and Pete Cowen. It didn’t take long for him to feel better. His hip isn’t bothering him and his swing feels great. Woodland still hasn’t figured out the final stretch, Nos. 16-18, playing them in 3 over through two rounds. But he likes where he’s headed. “I’ve seen some shots this week that I just haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “The golf swing feels so much better. Confidence has gone way up, which I did not have really in the last year. … It’s exciting right now.” Not so excited was Jon Rahm. He made a late charge until finishing with two bogeys for a 70 to miss the cut for the first time in 11 months.