Tiger’s surgery, a life-saving boat rescue, one top pro’s misquote | Monday Finish

Lilia Vu's caddie Cole Pensanti stole the show with this post-win belly flop.

Getty Images

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re sad we didn’t win a major but a bit relieved we didn’t have to jump into the Snake Lake. Let’s get to it!


The ripple effect.

“The reason I’m here is because of my grandpa.”

So said Lilia Vu in her winner’s press conference at the Chevron Championship, the first women’s major of the year. Technically the rest of us could say the same thing, too — would any of us be here without our grandparents? — but oh boy does Vu’s grandfather gets extra credit.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, he decided his top priority was to get his family out of the country and to the United States of America. But how to get there? He elected to build a boat. The family story goes that Vu’s grandfather would disappear into the countryside for weeks at a time before, one day, he told his wife and their children that it was time to go. They rushed through the jungle, boarded the boat and headed towards a new future.

As they set sail, others rushed to join them. Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols reported that the boat’s capacity was around 54 — but soon 82 people had come aboard. He took them all, but before long, that proved too many. Just a couple days into the journey, the vessel began to fail.

“The boat had a leak, so they really needed to find someone to help them out,” Vu recalled on Sunday, recounting family lore. They shot up a flare, calling for help — and, miraculously, an American naval ship was in the area. The group, which included Vu’s grandfather and her mother, too, was hauled aboard the USS Brewton. They were brought to the United States. Fifteen years later, Vu was born. Two decades after that she’d become the winningest golfer in UCLA’s history. And a half-decade after that she’d become a major champion.

The last time Vu saw her grandfather he was in the hospital being treated for a heart condition. It was the beginning of Covid and she was headed off to an Epson Tour event in Florida. By the time she returned, he’d passed away.

“The last thing he told me was to play my best,” she said.

Vu still thinks of him often, she said, including during Sunday’s final round, when she could feel frustration bubbling over.

“I was getting really upset on the course and I just had to remind myself, like, Grandpa is with you, and he’d be really disappointed if you were getting upset like this and that you didn’t get your act together.”

She got her act together. She only wished she could hear his reaction.

“I think he’d say that all my struggles were worth it,” she said.

Her reward is his, too, an extra blessing born from courage, good luck and goodwill.

You can listen to our Drop Zone podcast recap with on-site reporter Zephyr Melton below:


Who won the week?

To quote the philosopher Cousin Greg, from Succession: “History is happening — can you smell it?”

This week’s Chevron Championship marked the first playing of the event since it moved from Mission Hills in California. The final round served up some Texas-sized drama, with a carousel of contenders down the stretch. Several faltered when the lights got brightest but Lilia Vu stepped up with birdies at 17 and 18 to earn her spot in a playoff, where she made a third consecutive birdie to earn the trophy. Vu admitted she’d seen a snake in the pond at No. 17 just a day earlier but took the leap into the greenside pond at 18 anyway, kicking off a high-risk tradition that’ll spark debate for years to come.

Due east along the bayou, Davis Riley and Nick Hardy rallied with a final-round alternate-shot seven-under 65 to win the PGA Tour’s only team event, the Zurich Classic. I’m always impressed by the best-ball scores these guys shoot on the Thursday and Saturday of this event — they got as low as 61 this year — but I’m far more impressed with just how low they can go in alternate shot. Neither had won a PGA Tour event before; now they’ve each got one plus a whole bunch of status, exemptions, invitations and FedEx Cup points. Good on ’em.

Talor Gooch emerged the winner from LIV’s first Australian event, opening with 62-62 before hanging on with a final-round 73 to claim his first LIV title (and celebrating with a “shoey“.)

And Lucas Herbert won the ISPS Handa Championship, the first DP World event ever held in Japan. The victory marked his third DP World Tour title and bumped him from No. 59 to No. 42 in the world.


On the podium, but still…

The Chevron’s leaderboard was littered with almost-winners.

There was Angel Yin, who bogeyed 16 and 17 to turn a lead into a deficit before making birdie at No. 18 to force a playoff — where she snipe-hooked her 5-iron approach into the greenside pond.

There was Atthaya Thitikul, star in the making, who would have just needed par at No. 18 to make that playoff but laid up and then found the water with her approach shot anyway, leading to double-bogey 7 and the end of her tournament dreams.

There was A Lim Kim, who needed eagle at 18 to make the playoff but hit a cold shank instead and wound up with par.

And there was Nelly Korda, who couldn’t buy a putt all day until she eagled No. 18 to finish just one shot behind the leaders in solo third. Nice consolation prize: she regained the title of World No. 1.

All of ’em close. None of ’em quite got there.

At the Zurich, Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell faltered on their final nine but emerged as feel-good pals and almost-winners nonetheless.


Maybe next week.

Lydia Ko entered the week at World No. 1. Ko had quite the offseason; she got married and shuffled coaches and caddies. She started the year hot with a win at the Saudi International but showed mixed form entering this week and, after an uneven second round, went home early with a missed cut. Lexi Thompson has been among the most consistent presences in recent major championship history but went home early, too. Last week’s winner Grace Kim and last year’s winner Jennifer Kupcho also got cut.

lydia ko swings
Lydia Ko’s big changes raise big questions at Chevron Championship
By: Zephyr Melton

At the Zurich, Team John Daly-David Duval were fan favorites, no doubt. But their two-day total of 14 over par included a second-round 83 and left them in last place by 12 shots.


Misquote, in this case.

An intriguing email landed in my inbox this morning from David Winkle, agent to Dustin Johnson, clarifying that Johnson had not, in fact, taken a shot at PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan over the weekend.

Need some backstory? I did, too. But it turns out a number of outlets (including mega-tabloid the Daily Mail) reported that Johnson had been asked how the PGA Tour commissioner might be feeling in response to LIV’s ongoing existence.

“We don’t give a damn how he [Jay Monahan] feels. We know how he feels about us, so it’s mutual,” Johnson was quoted as saying. If that sounds unusually confrontational for DJ, well, that’s because it wasn’t DJ. What actually happened was that Johnson declined comment while Pat Perez — who speaks more often and more freely — jumped in with the dig at the commish. LIV’s SVP of player communications confirmed the misreporting.

Johnson deserves to be displeased with the entire episode. But the way he handled the incident revealed something interesting: Not only did Johnson not take a shot at Monahan, it was important to him and to his team that we know he didn’t.

“Dustin remains grateful for his time on the PGA TOUR and has the utmost respect for Commissioner Monahan,” Winkle wrote.

It was the latest example of Johnson doing what he can to stay above the fray; thus far he has taken an intentionally straightforward approach to the LIV-PGA Tour divide. Even at LIV Adelaide, which hosted the controversial circuit’s most boisterous crowds to date, that trend continued. Speak softly and carry a big stick.


Why this surgery feels different.

Tiger Woods announced last week that he’d undergone a successful subtalar fusion surgery. Based on his statement plus comments his agent made to the AP, this feels different than other Woods surgeries. It seems like a decision Woods made with his day-to-day quality of life in mind rather than anything to do with his golf future. The surgery means a loss of mobility in his right ankle. It also means less pain. Anyone who watched Woods suffer through a cold, miserable Saturday at the Masters could see the agony he was playing through; it’s encouraging to hear this should help address that.

Woods’ miraculous past comebacks have given us unfairly elevated expectations, and when he made the cut at last year’s Masters just 14 months removed from his devastating car crash we hoped his progress would be linear from there. It wasn’t; he arrived at this year’s Masters with a sharper golf game but an achier right leg.

This seems clearly like the end of Woods’ golfing summer and some have seen it as a sign of the end of his competitive golfing career, too. I’m not so eager to write that obituary just yet. Woods returning to competitive golf wouldn’t be like Brett Favre returning for another season, facing the risk of concussion on every play. Golf isn’t like other sports. We got that reminder from 52-year-old Phil Mickelson just two weeks ago at the Masters. Maybe this is it for Woods, but maybe it isn’t. I’m happy to let him to make that call.

I’d also like to direct you a smarter source, Bill Mallon, for a Twitter thread on Woods’ actual procedure and potential prognosis:


Monday Finish HQ.

A fairly discouraging trek ’round local muni Jackson Park this weekend served as a reminder that perhaps the most frustrating course condition is mud. Tough to catch a clean lie. Easy to chunk it. Demoralizing when you do. Here’s to a firmer, faster late spring.


3 things to watch this week.

1. Jon Rahm, mega-favorite.

The Masters champ and World No. 1 enters this week’s Mexico Open as a ridiculous +240 favorite. Yikes! I don’t know the last time someone entered a PGA Tour event that close to even money, but I’d be surprised if it was anyone other than Tiger Woods.

2. Wilshire Country Club, Hollywood Host.

Building off the Chevron’s momentum, the LPGA will take center stage in Hollywood as the JM Eagle LA Championship tees off at Wilshire Country Club. The iconic venue — which doubles as the old stomping grounds of Lilia Vu — should serve as an exciting backdrop for a deep field now fully immersed in major season.

3. The DP’s Asian Swing comes to a close.

The DP put the “World” in DP World Tour this spring, pushing far past the boundaries of Europe to Australia, India, Singapore and more. This past week was the circuit’s first-ever Japanese event. This week they head to South Korea, the final stop before the more traditional swing through mainland Europe.

We’ll see you there! Or, at least, we’ll see you here.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.