Phil’s tweets, Grillo’s floating ball, a Ryder Cup surprise | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re done with Succession but once again trying to figure out golf’s No. 1 boy. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Grillo’s watery wait.
In October 2015, 23-year-old Argentine Emiliano Grillo played his first event as a PGA Tour member, the Frys.com Open.
You can only imagine what he thought at that point. Surely such a speedy first win meant more would soon follow, one after another, pouring out like Fernet con Coca at an evening barbecue.
Grillo had some close calls in the years that followed. He finished T2 at the Barclays in 2016. In 2018 he finished second at the CIMB Classic and third twice (both in Texas: the Fort Worth Invitational and the Houston Open). Last summer he got close again, finishing T2 twice in three starts in near-misses at the John Deere Classic and 3M Open.
How agonizing it must have been, then, for Grillo to carry a two-shot lead to the 18th tee on Sunday at the Charles Schwab Challenge only to extend his wait even longer. In what was one of the strangest sights we can remember seeing in a sport defined by them, Grillo blocked his tee shot out to the right only to find his ball had rolled into a cement drain, where a shallow stream of water carried it little by little in the wrong direction. He’d waited eight years to get back to the winner’s circle. Now he waited another eight minutes as the ball just refused to stop floating; there’s no doubt he was processing the implosion-in-progress in real time.
Grillo eventually took a drop on some cement and went on to make double bogey to post a clubhouse lead of eight under par. Then came more waiting as Adam Schenk — also at eight under — played the 18th.
Grillo retreated to the practice tee. And here came what looked to the outside world like a moment of goodwill but something he called his “trick”: he invited a couple youngsters out to hit balls with him.
“I guess it was a little bit of a trick to get my head out of the situation,” he said. “José Cóceres did it with me when I was 7, 8 years old, and that was the greatest experience of all, just watching him and hitting his clubs. I kind of got to do it with them, and hopefully they’ll remember that.
“It’s also something that it helped to get my mind off the situation,” he added. “I’d just made a double. I basically gave the tournament away, and it wasn’t up to me. It wasn’t in my hands. It was a moment that I needed to get my head out of that.”
But Schenk’s birdie putt came up just short, which meant instead of finishing off the event (“The story would have been a little bit different,” Grillo acknowledged) the two tangled in a playoff. They tied the first hole with pars and Grillo got the kick of a lifetime on the second playoff hole; he’d pushed his tee shot out to the right but it caromed hard left from the edge of the green and swooped all the way across towards the pin, settling just five feet from the hole. Schenk dialed up the pressure with a clutch chip shot, so Grillo needed to make his birdie putt to win — and did just that.
The wait was over.
“It made everything worth it,” he said. “The playing, all the hours practicing, the effort from my family … It’s been tough, but it’s worth every second. People ask me if I would have done something different, looking back. I wouldn’t. This is just worth it.”
Who won the week?
Emiliano Grillo, of course. He’s into the top 50 in the world now, which means he’ll be in the U.S. Open and then Open Championship, too — plus his win means he’ll be in next year’s Masters and PGA. Good times for Grillo.
Pajaree Anannarukarn won for the second time in her LPGA career in a 3-and-1 finals triumph over Ayaka Furue in the finals of the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, held once again at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Anannarukarn, a 23-year-old from Thailand, persevered through a particularly rough stretch last summer (eight missed cuts in nine starts) but powered through the bracket. After 116 tournament holes, she’s earned a day off.
Pablo Larrazabal won the KLM Open in the Netherlands, his second DP World Tour win in as many months, stirring up talk that the 40-year-old could be a Ryder Cup contender. One interested party? Jon Rahm. Larrazabal told Sky Sports he got a “very beautiful message” from Rahm after his win.
“He said, ‘well, we probably have to play nine holes together before Rome,'” Larrazabal recounted.
He also got a message from Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald:
“Uh oh — you’ve got my attention!”
Harold Varner III won LIV’s event outside Washington, D.C. at Trump National, claiming his first victory on the startup circuit and his first professional victory on American soil. He framed his win as an opportunity to keep giving back to his community (a check for $4 million does enhance that possibility) rather than filling a void.
“I just enjoy it. It’s fun,” he said. “I love playing golf. That’s my favorite thing. I’m going to play tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome.”
Also of note: Italian golfer Matteo Manassero, who was ranked inside the top 30 in the world a decade ago, won the Challenge Tour’s Copenhagen Challenge this week. (Sidenote: the “Copenhagen Challenge” sounds like the exact incident that made a bunch of my high school baseball teammates vomit in the dugout.) The four-time DP World Tour champ hasn’t won on Europe’s top circuit since 2013 and hadn’t won anywhere since an Alps Tour victory in 2020. Onward, Matteo!
Adam Schenk was a couple rotations away from a win of his own. But credit to him for hanging in on an incredibly tough day in Fort Worth, particularly for the birdie he made on No. 16 in regulation and then the chip he hit in the playoff that forced Grillo to make birdie to knock him out.
“Looking back on it, it’s definitely a missed opportunity, but in the same stroke, I shouldn’t have been in the playoff,” he said, providing proper perspective.
Scottie Scheffler continued his run of otherworldly ballstriking paired with disappointing putting; he still finished T3 and just a shot outside the playoff. Harry Hall would have been in the playoff, too, were it not for his monstrous tee shot finding the water at 345 yards at No. 18; he finished T3 as well.
Ayaka Furue lost in the finals of the Match Play for the second consecutive year, but showed plenty in taking down Maja Stark, Celine Boutier and Leona Maguire en route to the finals.
The European Solheim Cup team showed plenty of promise, too: Linn Grant made it to the semifinals in her first U.S. event as an LPGA member (the expiration of a vaccine mandate allowed her to complete) as did Maguire, and five of the eight quarterfinalists were European (Grant and Maguire plus Boutier, Albane Valenzuela and Carlota Ciganda.)
Jordan Spieth shed further light on the nature of his wrist injury, which he said happened after he got home from the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I was just playing with my son. I wasn’t even holding him or anything. I was just pushing myself off the ground while he was like laughing and going side to side. Something just popped and jammed, and then all of a sudden, I couldn’t move it,” he said. After some recovery, he played his way through a T29 at the PGA Championship (“Turns out you can’t really kind of fake it into a major,” he said) but still wasn’t at 100 percent at Oak Hill nor at Colonial, where he missed the cut.
Just days after Nelly Korda announced she’d be skipping this week’s Mizuho Americas Open to recovery from an injury, older sister Jessica Korda announced that she’s taking an indefinite leave from the game in an effort to address a nagging back injury.
“At the advice of my medical team, I have made the tough decision to stop playing until I can get my back fully healthy,” she wrote on Instagram. “At this point, we don’t have a firm timeline for my return, but I’m working with the best of the best and am focused on coming back as soon as possible.”
And in the LIV event, four WDs (including from Thomas Pieters, Matthew Wolff and Jason Kokrak mid-tournament) forced the three reserve players into action and even left Smash GC competing with just three golfers in the final round.
Get well, everybody!
PHIL LOGS ON
Phil Mickelson had taken a break from Twitter for a while. Now? Not so much. In the past week alone Mickelson has used Twitter to sing LIV’s praises for major prep, dished on getting kicked out of CBS’s fantasy football league, came at Brandel Chamblee (several times), quoted John McEnroe, sold some gummies, blocked (and was blocked?) by Chamblee, complimented a youngster’s golf swing, offered to debate Chamblee (just not on Golf Channel), bragged about his driving distance and threw in a little shade at Eamon Lynch. One thing we know for sure: Mickelson’s paying attention! The tweets, presented without further comment:
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
We’re officially entering primetime golf season, folks. Washington’s courses are making the flip from waterlogged to overgrown, and 15 hours of daylight is helping grow plenty of grass. Once I file this column, in fact, I just might sneak off…
3 things to watch this week.
1. Designated Szn returns.
This week’s Memorial kicks off a run of three Dezzies in four weeks; the RBC Canadian Open comes next week before the U.S. Open and the Travelers. Rory McIlroy headlines the group expected to play all four events and most top Tour pros will play at least three. This is the heart of the jam-packed summer season. Drink it in!
2. Scottie Scheffler’s putter.
His ball-striking seems bulletproof. Can his flat stick keep up?
3. Rose Zhang’s debut.
There are plenty of top pros taking to the fairways of New Jersey next week — including re-crowned World No. 1 Jin Young Ko! — but the most intrigue surrounds Rose Zhang, the Stanford sensation making her professional debut.
How’s it gonna go?
We’ll let you know next week.