Monday Finish: The biggest hitter I’ve ever seen, Patrick Reed’s return
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where “trick or treat” just describes our golf game. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
When Taylor Pendrith‘s name appeared atop the Butterfield Bermuda Championship leaderboard this weekend, I texted a few buddies from my mini-tour days. This happens from time to time — a name will pop up in the U.S. Open or someone who has gone through Q-school and we’ll marvel at the fact that that was the guy who ended up making it.
With Pendrith it was the exact opposite. Rather than “I can’t believe that guy made it” it was “I can’t believe he wasn’t out there yet.”
I played most of the 2015 PGA Tour Canada season alongside Pendrith. When I say “alongside” I mean that we were technically in the same field each week — he was contending for victories while I was missing cuts. But he quickly became an icon on the tour because of his ridiculous length. He would hit his 2-iron past other guys’ driver. He’d fly his driver 40 yards past the average pro. He led the tour in driving distance by a preposterous 13 yards.
“I remember him having a replacement driver delivered to him mid-round after twisting the head from the hosel after a nice send,” texted Brian Hughes, a former roommate who plays on PGA Tour Latinoamerica. “Still has gotta be the longest player I’ve seen to this day.”
The Canadian Tour (the Mackenzie Tour, I should say) generally favored precision and consistency over raw power. But Pendrith could overpower them anyway. He finished T2 behind Drew Weaver in Vancouver, the first tournament of the season, when he lost in a five-man playoff. He lost in another playoff to Sam Ryder in Ottawa some weeks later. And in Nova Scotia, at the end of the season, he lost in a third playoff when C.T. Pan birdied the last five holes in regulation and then two playoff holes in a row.
(It was at that tournament, the Cape Breton Celtic Classic, that Pendrith put together one of the most glorious nine-hole stretches I’ve ever seen: Two doubles, two bogeys, two pars, one birdie and two eagles.)
At 30 years old, Pendrith may not be in the Sungjae Im/Joaquin Niemann crowd when it comes to crazy-young talent. He has spent years bouncing around different tours and battling a long list of injuries including his shoulder, forearm, wrist and hand. So I’m expecting him to be a rising star nonetheless. It’s hard to say he’s now “made it” given he just gave away a three-shot lead by shooting one of the day’s highest scores on Sunday in Bermuda, made double at No. 17 and finished T5, but still — he seems like he’s quite good at his job, and will continue to be.
Also, he still hits the hell out of the ball.
Who won the week?
The Butterfield Bermuda Championship began with plenty of talk about who wasn’t there, and why. Travel complications, a tricky spot on the schedule and a whole bunch of Covid complexity around vaccines and protocols meant that the full-points event couldn’t even fill its field; once they’d gone through every available alternate there were just 126 players in the 132-slot event.
But by week’s end, as always happens, the golf world’s attention was rightfully trained on those who were there. And that meant we watched Lucas Herbert, a rising Aussie star and PGA Tour rookie, embrace the brutish conditions, survive the wind and rain and cement a life-changing victory with two birdie bombs on the back nine.
“I love playing when it’s really hard,” Herbert told Golf Channel immediately after his round. “I just enjoyed the struggle out there today. There were times where we were nearly sitting on the ground behind an umbrella — and just embracing that was so much fun.”
Enjoy the struggle. That’s aspirational.
Hyo-Joo Kim won the SK Networks Seokyung Ladies Classic on the Korean LPGA to bust her way to No. 9 in the world. Kim spent most of 2020 on the KLPGA but has returned to a full LPGA schedule this season — but still made time for a few starts in Korea. Clearly, this one paid off. With her jump in the rankings, Brooke Henderson fell to No. 10 and Danielle Kang to No. 11, leaving Nelly Korda (No. 2) as the lone American inside the top 10.
And Bronte Law held off Maria Fassi for her first Ladies European Tour win in Dubai, where they played the Moonlight Classic at night, under the lights.
Moral victories all around.
Danny Lee was leading in Bermuda through 11 holes on Sunday, when he airmailed the 12th green, chipped short, bumped one well past and then didn’t come close to the hole with his bogey effort. Double bogey. Then he made bogey at 13. Then bogey at 14. Suddenly he was four shots back.
This was a big deal both in the short term — because Lee wanted to win the golf tournament — but also in the big picture. Lee is on a Minor Medical Extension and only has two starts remaining. He needed to secure the equivalent of a fourth-place finish to earn conditional status on Tour and solo second to earn full status. As he slid down the leaderboard, all of that suddenly hung in the balance.
But then Lee rallied. Birdies at 15 and 16, two of the toughest holes on the course. Birdie at 17 to get within one of the lead. And an up-and-down for par at 18 to lock down a T2 finish, well on his way to earning future starts.
“There’s so many times when that [rough stretch] comes or whenever that disappointment happened, I just kind of half-assed it all the way in,” Lee said. “So this time I didn’t want to do that. I gave 120 percent all the way in.” His future Tour status is glad he did.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Captain America had gone 10 starts in a row without a top-five finish. He got double pneumonia. He missed the Ryder Cup. The faceless social media account connected with his team garnered more attention than his actual play. And then Patrick Reed nearly stormed to victory on the back nine in Bermuda.
“It just allows you to be creative because you might as well just throw the yardage books away today,” Reed said after playing his final six holes in four under, shooting six-under 65 and posting the clubhouse lead (he wound up T2 alongside Lee). It was a reminder that Reed’s style of golf is fascinating to watch. It was also a welcome reminder why this guy has spent several charging inside the top 10 on so many leaderboards. It’s also fun hearing a pro so explicitly embracing the idea of “playing golf” rather than imitating some version of what they did on a launch monitor between starts.
“When it gets tough or when it gets hard, I feel like it allows me to get away from kind of driving range golf swings and stuff like that. It allows me to get really creative, start seeing golf shots and playing golf rather than sit there and try to produce a golf swing.”
Whether you consider Reed a villain, an artist, a national hero, a pest or some combination of the four, professional golf is more fun when he’s involved. Oh, and he also made one of the most ridiculous eagles you’ll ever see:
He’s also part of an intriguing trend. Since Ryder Cup teams were picked in early September, we’ve seen strong showings from players who were just left off (Sam Burns and Max Homa each picked up a Tour win) as well as those on the losing team (Rory McIlroy won on the PGA Tour, while Matthew Fitzpatrick won in Europe). Reed didn’t quite get his Sunday effort across the finish line, but he made a statement: he’s back. To quote a famous philosopher: Roll, P Reed, Roll.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
The Saudi Golf League(s)
With every new piece of information we get about the proposed Super and/or Premier Golf Leagues, their associated players, formats, requirements and paydays, the more questions we’re left with. That’s doubly true after a cryptic press release naming Greg Norman CEO of LIV Golf and promising much more to come.
We haven’t heard many top pros speak candidly about the Saudi league of late, but this weekend Golf Channel aired an interview with Graeme McDowell, who was thoughtful in providing an answer-non-answer about the league and its effect on the professional golf world.
“Y’know, I’ve been linked to things because I won the event there in 2020 and I asked for a release from the PGA Tour to go back there [to the Saudi International] next year again because I’ve played the Middle East for a large part of my career,” he said in the interview, which aired on Golf Central. “So I asked permission from the PGA Tour to ask for a release and they said to go ahead and do so, even though they haven’t decided whether we’re going to be allowed to go play that event — which is obviously unrelated to what you’re talking about. Because we’re talking about the golf league that we’ve all talked over pints for the last couple years and what it all means, y’know?
“Is it constructive? Is it disruptive? If five or 10 of the best players in the world leave the PGA Tour, I mean obviously we know that that’s a major problem. So it’s such an unknown quantity right now, it’s so hard to make a comment. Is it good for golf? Is it bad for golf? I couldn’t possibly comment, it’s very very difficult.
“Y’know, competition is typically good for everyone. I feel like the PGA Tour product has never been as strong as it is right now and continues to get stronger and stronger — and I certainly don’t have any contracts on my office table right now, I’m very very happy where I am here on the PGA Tour, but I’ll watch with interest because it is very, very interesting stuff.”
I get the sense McDowell is echoing a sentiment held widely around the professional golf world. Happy on the PGA Tour. Confused but intrigued about what lucrative alternatives may exist. Unsure of the guidelines and/or ramifications that would come with committing to said tour. Sitting back and waiting to see next steps play out. But most players wouldn’t be able to deliver it in McDowell’s delightful Northern Irish accent.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
I snuck out for a lunchtime nine last Friday at Interbay, the par-28 course down the road (I’ve sung its praises before). It was 40-something degrees and a biting wind came from the south, encouraging extra layers and speedy play. On the first tee, we were paired with a man who whipped out a hickory driver. Upon closer inspection, he was playing old-school hickories through the bag.
But these weren’t the sort of new-age artisanal hickories. This was, in his words, “a bag of old junk.”
I saw him peering back towards the first tee as we played No. 2. He seemed pleased that no group had teed off behind us. And when we reached the green, this gent tipped his cap and said he was going to stay behind and practice, thank you very much. And so he did, skittering chip shots across the second green with an old-school niblick as we played on. There’s nothing quite like golf.
Three things to watch this week.
1. Same tournament, new name.
There’s some tiny thrill that comes with a longtime PGA Tour event getting a new sponsor. In this case the tournament you knew as the Mayakoba Golf Classic is now the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. And there’s a solid field in attendance, including defending champ Viktor Hovland plus Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer and more. Mayakoba is the sort of course where you’d shoot a million and run through sleeve after sleeve of balls while pros will turn it into a shootout, fire rounds in the low 60s and have themselves a time in the Riviera Maya.
The high-intensity of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School is now available for your streaming entertainment! That’s right — live streaming from The Landings in Georgia will be available Sunday, November 7 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App and GolfChannel.com. Watch ’em sweat it out with literal dreams on the line.
3. Jerry Remy.
The voice of my childhood died over the weekend: Jerry Remy, former major leaguer and longtime beloved Red Sox TV announcer. He was just 68 years old. Growing up, my brother and I were basically only allowed to watch weeknight television if it was the Sox, which meant we spent more time with Remy and broadcast partner Don Orsillo than just about anyone else in our lives. It’s hard to imagine any duo having as much fun as they did while somehow still calling a hell of a game. Remdawg, you’ll be missed. Here are a couple highlights to crystallize the best of times.
We’ll see you next week!