Monday Finish: Rory’s club thief, golf vs. lightning and Barkley’s $100k bet
Welcome to the Monday Finish! This is where we’ll tally this week’s scores and get you ready for the golf week to come. This Monday that means gearing up for The Open Championship and looking back at a series of strange incidents from the week that was.
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Caddies taking action.
This week’s strange fan incident involving Rory McIlroy‘s headcover (and iron) reminded us just how fragile the relationship can be between golfer and gallery. It sparked a debate about who was at fault for a strange man walking uninhibited onto the 10th tee. In short: Why was this man there and who should have stopped him?
First, a few notes on the details of the story: McIlroy’s playing partner Jon Rahm said after the round that the man smelled of alcohol but that “it didn’t put anyone off,” and “If anything, it put a smile on our faces.” McIlroy himself, who missed the cut, said he was “surprised” and that “everything was handled okay” but didn’t elaborate. And tournament officials told the AP that the man had been taken to the hospital in Edinburgh and that Police Scotland were handling the matter.
I wasn’t at the Scottish Open, but I did spend several days last week at the American Century Championship. The only two things it had in common with the Scottish Open was that 1. It was a golf tournament and 2. It was a star-studded field of golfers in an area not fully used to dealing with the sorts of crowds that come along with star-studded fields. You want some facetime with Steph Curry? Early week at the ACC might be your best chance to get it — unless, of course, he ends up playing in the Scottish Open. Golf courses are large, open spaces. They’re terrific places to watch your favorite players. But if those players start to fear the people who might be watching them, well, that sounds much less enjoyable from their end.
Whether McIlroy’s club thief was a curious, harmless moment or symptomatic of a disturbing, pressing issue of golf security is a debate I’ll leave to others. Instead I figured this was a good moment to dive into the archives of a caddie who might have handled things differently than McIlroy’s, who hung back and waited for security: Longtime Tiger Woods looper Steve Williams.
Williams’ interview with Graham Bensinger a few years ago summed things up pretty well. Here’s the exchange about Williams’ rap sheet, followed by the video itself:
Bensinger: “I want to read off a couple things: You once kicked a camera out of the hands of a New York Daily News photographer. You once grabbed a camera from an off-duty police officer. Another time you took a spectator’s camera and allowed it to roll in the pond. [Chuckling] It’s kind of funny, but how would you explain, justify the reasoning behind those actions?”
Williams: “Well, a couple of those actions actually came before the Tour provided decent security. The very best players, the ones who attract the most galleries, the PGA Tour does an incredible job now of providing their own security that look after these players and provide a detailed team to help them. But when I first started out a couple of these tournaments didn’t have those people. It can become very frustrating when a guy has a camera and you tell him once, twice, three, four, five times that you can’t use a camera while these guys are playing. And sometimes your actions at the time, I’m an aggressive person and you take things into your own hands, but y’know the camera that went in the water we were playing in the Skins Game and the guy that was a sponsor, he was walking inside the ropes and he continually used a camera and he took a shot right on the downswing of a bunker shot, a delicate bunker shot. Tiger was trying to get the ball up and down to stay in the hole in a skins game, and consequently he hit a very poor shot because he flinched, and the frustration got the better of me.”
“Tiger was playing at Shinnecock in the U.S. Open and this guy was continually taking a roll of film of his swing, a swing sequence. And he was doing it on the range, and we told him three or four times on the range that that’s not permitted while players are warming up, and then he got on the first tee underneath a billboard behind the first tee and took a swing sequence shot right on the first tee, one of those [mimics camera shutter]. It blows your concentration and that was incredibly frustrating. When a professional is playing in silence and there’s something that you’re not expecting to hear, it just takes your mind off for that split-second and invariably you don’t hit the shot that you’re trying to hit. And it can be very costly at the wrong time.
It’s not random, there’s always something behind every incident that leads to the actions that you take.”
They don’t make ’em like they used to. And, as far as I can tell, no video exists of the above incidents, which will have to live on in protective-caddie mythology instead.
Who won what?
There were about three dozen intriguing golf tournaments happening this weekend so let’s buzz through a few of ’em.
On the PGA Tour, Lucas Glover birdied five of his final seven holes to win the John Deere Classic and secure his first victory in a whopping decade.
“I remember that was my biggest takeaway when Tiger won his last Masters, is that his kids got to see him as a champ,” Glover said. “That was a goal of mine, too.”
On the LPGA, Nasa Hataoka‘s six-shot 54-hole lead at the Marathon Classic turned into a six-shot victory when Highland Meadows Country Club was doused with rain on Sunday and an uncertain forecast loomed Monday, too. All week, Hataoka used a ball marker from the Olympic Club, where she lost in a playoff, as a prompt to stay aggressive.
“Every time I look at it, it reminds me to just keep going and go for a win,” she said. “That’s what I use it for.”
On the PGA Tour Champions, Jim Furyk took down the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, winning in his event debut and becoming the eighth player to win both the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open.
On the European Tour, Min Woo Lee triumphed at the Scottish Open; the 22-year-old Aussie made six birdies in a row en route to a Sunday 64 to earn a spot in a playoff against Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry. Lee holed a 15-footer for birdie on the first hole of sudden-death and won his second European Tour title.
And at the American Century Championship, Vinny Del Negro took down John Smoltz with a birdie on the first playoff hole to beat the world’s most famous field of celebrity golfers.
Who came up just short?
A few intriguing non-winners:
At the John Deere, Cameron Champ interrupted a streak of MC-MC-WD-MC-MC with a promising T11, his first top-25 finish of the Tour season.
At the Marathon, Mina Harigae was only one shot back with (what turned out to be) nine holes to play before Hataoka pulled away.
Retief Goosen and Mike Weir were Furyk’s closest challengers in Nebraska, finishing T2 at four under, three shots back.
In Scotland, Lee earned an Open Championship berth as did runner-up Thomas Detry and Englishman Jack Senior, who finished T10.
At the ACC, John Smoltz first reminded us just how good a former pro pitcher can be at golf and then also reminded us that pro pitchers may not have the on-course closing ability of a pro golfer (and yes, that goes even for former closers). Smoltz finished with three bogeys in his final five holes and then found the woods and the water on his first playoff hole. Tony Romo and Annika Sorenstam were the next-closest competitors.
$100k on a…top-70?!
Del Negro earned $125,000 for his victory at the American Century Championship. But that number paled in comparison to the amount fellow competitor Charles Barkley would have won had he finished inside the top 70 in the 88-player field.
Barkley took the action on himself after hearing about the bet offered by the local bookmaker at William Hill, which was initially offered as high as 17-1 but had fallen to 5-1 when Barkley got in on the action. The odds fell even further after his wager.
After a disappointing opening round in which he shot 96 (no score worse than double bogey is recorded) and finished with -16 points (yes, that’s negative 16), he battled with back-to-back 90s including three consecutive pars to finish on Sunday, an effort that saw him climb to T76 but nonetheless fall nine points short of a winning wager.
Still, if you’re a fan of swing revamps you’ll agree that the tournament marked an impressive step in the right direction for Barkley’s swing and his game, which was famously terrible for decades but is showing signs of improvement thanks to a new swing coach and fresh approach.
Earlier this summer, Xander Schauffele surprised the golfing public by announcing that despite a top-tier putting game, he had switched to an arm-lock approach. According to Schauffele, he’d tested the style and it was undoubtedly better — to the point he suggested it was an unfair advantage to putt that way. Unfortunately, his putting stats in subsequent starts told a different story, holding him back from potential contention at the Memorial and the U.S. Open.
Now? It appears the experiment is at least temporarily on hold. Schauffele shot a final-round 67 using his standard-length putter at the Scottish Open and appeared to be practicing with the same putter on Monday at Royal St. George’s.
(Also I won’t make any promises but Schauffele is your best bet to win this week.)
Who’s still playing this thing, anyway?
These are uncertain times, and the WDs from the Open Championship include the voluntary (Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim, prepping for the Olympics) the understandable (Zach Johnson testing positive for Covid-19) and the frustrating (Bubba Watson, who won’t be able to bring his strong form to Royal St. George’s despite being vaccinated and not testing positive). The list of WDs from the Open has stretched well into the double digits by this point, and includes the following players as of this writing:
Si Woo Kim
Louis de Jager
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
I’ve begun a mild swing reconstruction in pursuit of more speed. Pray for me.
Related: I won’t be traveling to this week’s Open Championship. That’s devastating because apart from the food poisoning and the cold showers (two stories for another time) the two weeks I spent in Northern Ireland and Ireland around Portrush in 2019 were among the favorites I’ve spent on the job.
Three things to watch this week.
- This Topgolf lightning video.
I’ll admit I was mildly surprised to see Topgolf itself posting this video of a Topgolfer’s ball sailing out into the range and being struck by actual lightning, for fear of encouraging other copycats. But I’ll also admit I can’t stop watching the video, either.
2. Rory McIlroy off a missed cut.
Two of Rory McIlroy‘s most recent four victories have come the week after a missed cut, and he missed the cut at last week’s Scottish Open. Just so you know.
3. Jon Rahm being Jon Rahm.
He’s won one major championship in a row and is playing unquestionably the best golf in the world. Does Jon Rahm have further up on the mountain to climb?
We’ll see when we talk to you next week!