Joe LaCava’s historic chase, Daniel Berger’s disappearance, Jason Day’s Masters reveal | Monday Finish

Joe LaCava and Patrick Cantlay are golf's newest high-profile partnership.

Joe LaCava and Patrick Cantlay are golf's newest high-profile partnership.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, the royal coronation of weekly golf wrap-ups. Let’s get to it!


Wyndham’s road.

Wyndham Clark remembers driving fast.

In his memory he’s 20 years old, maybe 21. He’s a talented member of the Oklahoma State golf team, but his performance is increasingly inconsistent. A year earlier he’d lost his mother, Lisa, to breast cancer. She’d introduced him to golf. She’d been his rock. And now? He’s in his car, speedometer ticking up, racing from the course.

“There’s many times when I stormed off the golf course in qualifying or in tournaments and just drove as fast as I could,” Clark remembered on Sunday evening, sitting in his first PGA Tour winner’s press conference. “I didn’t know where I was going. I just — just the pressure of golf and then not having my mom there and someone that I could call was really tough for me.”

Winning a PGA Tour event is such an obvious capstone to a golfer’s journey that it’s natural to wonder about the winding climb that led there. If this is the top, what was the bottom? Sometimes I wonder if interviewees can get there too quickly, dredging up heartbreak in a time of triumph. Do we need to bring a player back to his lowest moment when he’s at his peak? But just as often winning gives athletes a chance to reflect, to tell their stories, to add context. And in sports, context is everything.

Clark contemplated quitting golf at Oklahoma State, in those fast-driving days. Now? He’s happy he didn’t. But it was telling just how clearly he remembered that feeling from all those years ago. That was important context to his triumph; he was more grateful to be here because he knew it had never been a sure thing. And he missed the woman who helped get him started.


Who won the week?

When Clark said “here now” he meant in the winner’s circle at the Wells Fargo Championship. He meant the owner of 500 shiny new FedEx Cup points, catapulting him to fifth on Tour. He meant the recipient of $3.6 million, the first-place check at this year’s designated events. Clark’s first PGA Tour win was a whopper.

He began Sunday’s final round with a two-shot lead over World No. 5 Xander Schauffele but that had flipped to a one-shot deficit after seven holes. No matter: Clark birdied five of the next eight to take control. His career is changed forever.

He was proud of his perseverance.

Max Homa has a great quote that every golfer’s one shot away from thinking they can win the Masters or one shot away from quitting golf,” he said. “It’s a great quote because that’s the truth. I’m glad I stuck it out and am here now.”

This weekend brought the return of the International Crown to the LPGA. It’s a unique format — eight countries, four players per country, pool play followed by semifinals and finals — and it was a big win seeing the women come to TPC Harding Park. But the win was especially big for Team Thailand, which absolutely steamrolled the competition on its way to victory.

The team of Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit, Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn emerged from pool play a spotless 6-0-0. And while they just snuck past Team USA in the semifinals — alternate-shot birdies at 17 and 18 powered the Jutanugarns past Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang, 1 up — they won their three finals matches 4 and 2, 4 and 3 and 4 and 3.

“I would say when I’m growing up, when I’m turning pro, I always want to inspire the kids back home,” Ariya Jutanugarn said in their winning press conference. “Right now I feel even better because it’s not only me right now, I have Patty, Atthaya and Mo, and we’re just going to keep doing the same thing.”

Adrian Meronk won on the DP World Tour at the Italian Open, kicking off the tour’s summer swing through Europe. The event also served as a preview of sorts of this fall’s Ryder Cup venue, Marco Simone GC, just outside of Rome. Meronk moved to No. 5 in Team Europe’s Ryder Cup rankings with the win, while DataGolf has him at exactly 50/50 to make the team — but the fact that he won there can’t hurt his chances, either.


Xander Schauffele beat everyone at the Wells Fargo Championship by three shots. Everyone except for Wyndham Clark, that is.

Schauffele shot 64 on Saturday while Clark shot 63 in the same group. They played together again on Sunday; in tougher conditions, he shot 70 to Clark’s 68 to finish four shots back. Afterwards, he described Clark as “a bit of a buzz saw, to be honest. I probably had to shoot, what, seven under today again ballpark to win by one.”

And while he described it as “a flat Sunday,” it was still a banner week for the World No. 5, who earned $2.2 million for his efforts. It was just an even better week for Clark.

Tyrrell Hatton continued to impress in this run of Designated Events, finishing T3 alongside Harris English despite what he described as a lack of confidence in his golf swing.

“I mean, I felt so uncomfortable over the ball this weekend, I literally didn’t feel like I could hit a good shot,” he said Sunday. “I stood over tee shots today feeling like I was going to snap hook it. For me, naturally I fade the ball, so it’s not a nice feeling. So to get round in the score that I did today considering how uncomfortable I felt, I’ll take that.”

He also moved to No. 3 in my made-up Dezzies Standings:

Team Australia put together an impressive semifinal showing at the International Crown winning their matches against the powerhouse Swedes by margins of 3, 4 and 5 up. Sure, they got rolled in the final, but silver ain’t half bad. Team USA claimed the bronze after taking down the Swedes in the third-place matches and seemed generally thrilled about the opportunity to represent their country in a different format and at a big-time venue.

While many prospective European Ryder Cuppers spent the week in Charlotte, Nicolai Hojgaard was one contender who improved his chances at making the team after a final-round 65 — low round of the day by two — left him T5. His twin brother Rasmus is slightly further down the rankings, but there’s still plenty of time between now and the golf world’s next trip to Rome.


Not their week.

Rory McIlroy finished his week on a strangely fitting note, torpedoing a nice final round with three balls in the water on his final five holes to post a four-day total of even-par T47. That comes in the wake of his missed cut at the Masters and his notable absence at the RBC Heritage, all of which adds up to less-than-ideal form going into the PGA Championship. Still, he’ll start the week at Oak Hill at even par, same as everybody else.

Jordan Spieth came in on a heater — he’d logged five top-six finishes in his last eight events — but shot a second-round 77 to miss the cut. If we’re putting our optimistic pants on, Spieth got a couple extra days’ rest before this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, which he’s playing ahead of next week’s PGA.

As the PGA Tour deserts match play, the LPGA strikes gold with the format
By: James Colgan

Team South Korea went into the International Crown with high expectations but got swept by the Aussie and Thai teams to start 0-4 in pool play, eliminating them from contention. They finished their week with a Saturday sweep of Team Japan, but it was still disappointing for a powerhouse golf country.

And Bob MacIntyre withdrew with a back injury before the second round in Italy, putting a disappointing end to his title defense at Marco Simone. We — and all of Team Europe — hope it’s just a minor setback.


Something interesting someone said.

On Sunday at the Masters, Jason Day played his way into contention before a strange sequence of events took place. At No. 9, he missed a three-footer for par — and then he missed a three-footer for bogey, too. He tapped in for double. Then he made double bogey at No. 10, sniping a tee shot out of play left. He made another double bogey at No. 12 when he buzzed a chip over the green and into the water. And he found the water off the tee at No. 13, too. Double bogey again. At one point he’d been threatening the top five; at day’s end he birdied No. 18 just to shoot 80 and finish T39.

This week, we got a partial explanation.

“So, the last round of the Masters I had vertigo, so that was obviously not fun to play in that final round,” he said ahead of the Wells Fargo. “We had to finish our third round Sunday morning and then I was sitting in the caddie hut and that’s when I got vertigo.”

Day has battled vertigo in the past, notably at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015. He suffered a small bout at this year’s WGC-Match Play, too. But he said it got far worse at Augusta — and gave some insight as to why.

“Overall I know exactly what happened,” Day said. “When you put yourself under stressful conditions all the time, sooner or later your immune system gets compromised. I wasn’t eating as healthy as I should have, so I made some changes to my diet. Then, yeah, it’s a virus that attacks my inner ear, which is the vestibular nerve in the ear, so when that happens you can’t get rid of a virus obviously, the only way you can do it is suppress it. I just needed to take some time off, that was pretty much plain and simple. And then obviously on top of it just rework how I come to the golf course and work as well.”

It’s a particularly tricky dilemma because the moments Day needs to feel his best — while in contention at a PGA Tour event — are the moments the vertigo is most likely to strike. The more he’s been playing better, the more stress he’s under. Here’s hoping for a full healthy week at the PGA Championship.


Hoping to see, that is: A Daniel Berger comeback.

Daniel Berger‘s most recent PGA Tour round came at last year’s U.S. Open, where he missed the cut. Before that he’d actually strung together a decent season, posting three top-fives and a handful more top-20s. But not all was well — and then he disappeared.

Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press tracked Berger down for an excellent story that revealed the former World No. 12’s struggle with a mysterious back injury. Berger’s battle began after taking time off following the 2021 Ryder Cup, where he won the final singles match on Sunday. When he played the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Jan. 2022, he performed well, finishing T5. But his back bugged him. He called what followed the “worst six months of my life” in part because of the uncertainty; nobody could figure out what was going on. After the U.S. Open, he stepped away.

Berger told the AP he’s finally seen progress in recent months, has been hitting balls and plans to make his return. We’ll look forward to that moment. But what stuck out to me was one line from Ferguson’s piece:

“His only real contact with the PGA Tour was Commissioner Jay Monahan calling a few times to check on him.”

That echoes a line from Brooks Koepka after winning the 2018 U.S. Open; when he’d been out with injury he was struck by just how few people he heard from, citing only Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

“Those are the only guys that texted me,” Koepka said at the time. “You make a lot of friends out here, and you feel like a lot of them, you just get forgotten.”

Professional golf can be a lonely place, especially when you see it move on without you. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

(You can read that whole piece here.)


Tiger and Patrick and Joe.

There was plenty of attention paid to the new partnership between Patrick Cantlay and Joe LaCava, which began this week with Woods’ blessing. The week went well and resulted in a T21 finish — remarkably, that’s Cantlay’s worst result in his last seven starts — but it’s next week that history could really get made.

If Cantlay wins the PGA Championship, that would give him his first major, of course. That would be cool. But it would also give LaCava his third major with three different players. That’s a feat only accomplished by two men, according to Monday Finish research lead and Drop Zone podcast co-host Sean Zak: Dave Musgrove won two major titles on the bag of Sandy Lyle (1985 British Open, 1988 Masters), one carrying for Seve Ballesteros (1979 British Open) and one with Lee Janzen (1988 U.S. Open). Dave Renwick won with Jose Maria Olazabal (1994 Masters), Steve Elkington (1995 PGA Championship), and Vijay Singh (1998 and 2004 PGA Championships, 2000 Masters). As far as I know, those are the only two.

Other high-profile caddies have won with two different players — think Steve Williams with Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, or Bones Mackay with Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas — but a third win would put LaCava in a truly exclusive club.


Monday Finish HQ.

I’m back from Walla Walla (the town so nice they named it twice) but wrote about my latest bid at U.S. Open qualifying here! This piece seemed to strike a chord with plenty of former competitive athletes, golfers and otherwise — and I also managed to offend the bowling community. Sorry, gang.

U.S. Open qualifying humbled me. Here’s why I’ll be back for more
By: Dylan Dethier


3 things to watch this week.

1. Dallas.

No, it’s not a designated event. But the AT&T Byron Nelson does have World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler. It has Jordan Spieth, too. It has two-time defending champ K.H. Lee. And it has a stadium-style party hole that looks like it could be a good time. In all, the final tune-up for the PGA should have plenty of intrigue. Not least of which is how it matches up with the event in…

2. Tulsa.

That would be LIV’s Tulsa tournament, which will go head-to-head with the Tour event just a four-hour drive south. This should make for a particularly strange dynamic in a sport now filled with strange dynamics. But it’ll be interesting to see who comes out playing well, particularly those pros invited to the PGA. It should be a particularly intriguing return for Mito Pereira, who was on the brink of major championship victory a year ago before, y’know, this.

3. Jersey.

The Cognizant Founders Cup comes to Upper Montclair Country Club, putting the LPGA Tour in the shadow of New York City, its fourth major metropolitan area in the last four weeks. (Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York is a wild run.) Minjee Lee won last year, a preview of her U.S. Women’s Open win. How ’bout this year?

We’ll see you next week to see how it went.

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