Battle Royal

Team USA stages a comeback, Royal Melbourne and Tiger impress, and “Captain Obnoxious” isn’t here to make friends


The comedown is the worst part, isn’t it? The high of the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne is officially over, Korn Ferry Tour Q-School brought triumph and heartbreak, and… the QBE team thing happened.


Team USA won its eighth straight Presidents Cup over the weekend with a come-from-behind victory at Royal Melbourne. Down to the Internationals for most of the event, the United States eked out a narrow victory by winning 11 of the final 16 points. Results

This was the most intense Presidents Cup in recent memory. The Internationals came out firing on Day 1, and late on Day 2 it seemed possible that they might take a 9-1. But the U.S. rallied on Friday afternoon and played well on the weekend. They saved their best golf for the final day of the event, losing only two of the 12 singles matches to the International side.

But the American comeback, impressive as it was, may not be the defining story from this Presidents Cup. Here are some other threads we were tracking:


Royal Melbourne – In an era when no one agrees on anything, nearly everyone in the golf world—from the media to the fans to the players themselves—seemed to love what they saw of Royal Melbourne. It was music to the ears of those who care about the quality of tournament golf courses. For our full thoughts on the venue and its place in the current golf architecture zeitgeist, check out Andy’s open letter to any eccentric billionaires who might want to bankroll an annual Sandbelt Championship and Garrett’s thoughts on what we can learn from Royal Melbourne’s firm and fast conditions.

Tiger – He competed in only three of the five sessions, but Captain Woods was the best player on the U.S. team in Australia. On a course that demanded precision, Tiger controlled his ball better than anyone. His Sunday match against Abe Ancer was clinical, and he carried partner Justin Thomas through the opening session on Thursday. Benching himself on Saturday was a controversial choice, but it worked out. Above all, Tiger proved that, even as he closes in on his 44th birthday, he still has as much game as any other American golfer—and more competitive presence than anyone, period.

The honest one – One of the top two performers on the week for the International side, Presidents Cup rookie Abraham Ancer proved himself a stud this weekend. Playing with three different partners in the first three sessions, Ancer went 3-0. Then, on Saturday afternoon, he and a struggling Marc Leishman gutted out a halve against Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. On Day 4, Ernie Els put him out first against Tiger Woods, and Abe’s 3&2 loss wasn’t surprising. Some folks lamely tried to dunk on him by bringing up the fact that he recently said he “would like to play against Tiger,” but the fact remains that Ancer had one hell of a week.

UnSung hero – Also finishing the week with a 3-1-1 record for the International team was Sungjae Im, another rookie. Golf’s busiest man started the event with a hole-out eagle and ended it with a stomping of Gary Woodland. In spite of his No. 34 world ranking, the announcers seemed at times to speak of Im as some kind of unknown underdog. That narrative won’t last much longer. The 21-year-old Korean has been a baller since the moment he hit the Web Tour in 2018, and he’ll continue to be.


Captain Obnoxious – A distraction for most of the week, Patrick Reed made more than one unsavory headline in Australia. He and partner Webb Simpson racked up an 0-3 record in four-ball and foursomes, and on Friday Reed mimed shoveling in response to fans heckling him about his waste-bunker exploits at the Hero World Challenge. (The PGA Tour thought it all was a fun joke.) As a cherry on top, his caddie and brother-in-law Kessler Karain got into a physical altercation with an allegedly rude fan after four-ball on Saturday. A glowering Reed, with his coach on his bag, won his Sunday singles match against C.T. Pan. So, in summary: 1-3 and a boatload of bad PR. You got to wonder how many more captain’s picks should come his way.

Haotong – Haotong Li was the least useful International team member this weekend. The 24 year-old played only once during the two-man matches (and seemed oddly clueless about the customs of match play) and got destroyed by Dustin Johnson in singles.

Shapland Bags

Team USA just learned that carrying dead weight (Patrick Reed) on your back is tough work. So make your back and shoulders happy with a Shapland Golf Bag. The straps are comfortable, and the bag is crafted with a maniacal focus on design and quality. Order by Monday, December 16 to get a customized and monogrammed bag by Christmas and use the code EGGNOG for free shipping. Shop Shapland Bags today!

Status symbol(s)

Australia had the focus of the golf world this weekend, but the most consequential event of the weekend was just outside of Orlando. Forty players earned Korn Ferry Tour status on Sunday at Orange County National. Braden Thornberry and Curtis Thompson shared medalist honors at -21, while -12 was the magic number to earn KFT status. A few other notables who got their KFT cards this weekend include Nick Hardy (T-5), Dawson Armstrong (T-7), Stephen Franken (T-7), Jordan Niebrugge (T-13), Ryan Ruffels (T-21), Theo Humphrey (T-27), and Vince India (T-30). Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, arrested earlier in the week in a prostitution sting, struggled in his last two rounds and fell short. Leaderboard

Thornberry and Thompson will have full status next year, the rest of the top 10 is exempt into the first 12 events, and the top 30 are into the first eight events in 2020. 

Quick Hooks

Kevin “Gainz” Tway and Rory “The Boy from Bratislava” Sabbatini teamed up to win the exclusive QBE Shootout in Naples this weekend. That’s all we have on that subject. We’re certain Brendan and Andy will have more on the Shotgun Start. Leaderboard

There was a lot of good writing about the Presidents Cup this week, but two pieces from yesterday are on our minds right now: Eamon Lynch on “Captain America” and Mike Clayton on Tiger at Melbourne.  

The Latest

Thoughts on the Firmness of Royal Melbourne – As the action at the Presidents Cup wrapped up, Garrett shared his thoughts on the importance of firmness at tournament venues and the lessons we might take from Royal Melbourne to our home courses.

The Reed family problem, a Tiger masterpiece, and Big Ern throws down the gauntlet 

A glorious Monday morning edition of the Shotgun Start opens exactly how you would expect: with a discussion on the QBE Shootout and the possibility of Gainz Tway also taking up Slovak citizenship. Then Brendan and Andy shift to more prominent matters and run through what they loved and what irritated them from an outrageously eventful Presidents Cup. They discuss Ernie Els’s closing comments that the International side needs to get away from the PGA Tour and have its own oversight. They hit on Tiger’s masterful work on a Royal Melbourne course that shined in primetime. The endlessly amusing week of Bryson DeChambeau is dissected. Pat Reed’s disgraceful week is covered, including his golf, his cheating, his unscrupulous in-laws, and his future on these team events. The hypothetical of whether Andy would boot Mitch Trubisky or Pat Reed from his life first is proposed. Justin Thomas’s antics, Haotong Li’s ambivalence, and Matt Kuchar’s big moment are also covered, among other inanities. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Greywalls Course at Marquette Golf Club (Marquette, Michigan)


About as far north as you can venture in America is one of the best public golf courses in the country. Greywalls, a Mike DeVries design on the edge of the Canadian Shield, is the closest thing to a modern Yale Golf Course in existence. The routing navigates rock outcroppings and rough ground before traveling through a sand-laden stretch in the middle of the back nine. The course checks all the boxes: excellent strategic design, jaw-dropping views of Lake Superior, and adventurous shots—like the one you’ll find at the par-3 6th (pictured below). Greywalls is a modern marvel, and if you’re a fan of golf architecture, you should go out of your way to see it. Full Profile on Greywalls

Insider tip: Spend some time not golfing in and around Marquette. Sand dunes, Lake Superior, and numerous hiking trails make it an outdoor vacation heaven. -Andy Johnson

Pro Shop

Welp, that’s it folks. Golf is over (for now) and it’s just cold, cold, cold. Cover your head with one of our steam shovel beanies! They’re warm, stylish, and will hold in your golf bug for as long as possible this winter. Get yours today

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