While we would love to sit here and write about Mitch Trubisky’s undeniable status as an elite NFL quarterback, we’re too fired up about golf to think about football. Let’s discuss.
(For our headline, s/o Beth Ann Nichols.)
At the ANA Inspiration, many of the world’s best were in contention down the stretch, including South Korea’s Mirim Lee, who chipped in three times in her final round. Lee’s last chip-in came on the 72nd hole, where she made an eagle to get into a playoff with Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson. Lee’s birdie on the first playoff hole earned her the title. ANA Inspiration Results
Before this weekend, 29-year-old Mirim Lee was not a household name. No. 94 in the Rolex Rankings entering the ANA, she had not recorded a top 10 on the LPGA Tour in more than a year. Lee had played only three events in 2020 and hadn’t made a cut since last November. But that’s all behind her now. The ANA Inspiration is her fourth LPGA Tour title and her first major championship.
While it’s easy to be happy for Mirim Lee, there’s an 800-square-foot elephant in the room. Following a bogey on her 71st hole, Lee stood in the 18th fairway knowing she likely needed an eagle at the closing par 5. Deciding between a 4-iron and 5-wood, Lee opted for the longer club. Why? Because there was a giant backboard behind the 18th green. “I definitely thought to utilize the back and the backboard,” she said. “When I had practice rounds, I had practiced that shot, so it was a definite for me to use the space there.” Sure enough, Lee’s approach banged into the backboard. She received free relief and proceeded to hole the chip.
Lee was by no means the only player to use the wall this weekend, and you can’t blame her for taking advantage. But this wasn’t a good look for the LPGA and the tournament organizers. Yes, there’s traditionally a grandstand behind the 18th at the ANA Inspiration. But this wall was, according to Beth Ann Nichols, “even bigger and closer”—and, of course, in the absence of fans, unnecessary. The ANA is a major. It should look and play like one.
ANA odds and ends
Eight of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings were at Mission Hills Country Club this weekend. Five—Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson, Minjee Lee, and Nasa Hataoka—finished T-7 or better, while Danielle Kang and Sei Young Kim were in the top 20.
Rose Zhang and Gabriela Ruffels, the last two U.S. Women’s Amateur champions, battled for low amateur on Sunday. Zhang (T-11) birdied her final two holes to best Ruffels (T-15) by one shot.
A Cinking feeling—in a good way
Stewart Cink won for the first time in 11 years on Sunday. More specifically, Stewart Cink won for the first time since he (bittersweetly) defeated Tom Watson at the 2009 Open Championship. Forty-seven-year-old Cink claimed the Safeway Open by two shots after back-to-back rounds of 65 on the weekend. The victory was all the more poignant with his son on the bag and his wife, who recently battled breast cancer, behind the ropes. Cink now has PGA Tour status through the 2022-23 season, ensuring that he will have two options when he turns 50: stay on the PGA Tour or go toe-to-toe with Phil Mickelson on the Champions Tour. Safeway Open Results
Curtis Thompson, co-medalist at 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, won the Evans Scholars Invitational this weekend, but it was Will Zalatoris who stole the show. With a final-round 64, Zalatoris rocketed up the leaderboard and finished just one shy Thompson. The runner-up is his 10th top 10 of the season. Zalatoris has blown everyone away with his consistency, and he clearly deserves to be on the big tour. He’ll get that chance next week when he tees it up at the U.S. Open. Evans Scholars Invitational Results
PGA Tour Rookie of the Year front-runner Scottie Scheffler tested positive for Covid-19 this weekend and has withdrawn from the U.S. Open. He is currently asymptomatic and will enter quarantine. Branden Grace will replace Scheffler in the field at Winged Foot.
Harry Higgs was runner-up to Stewart Cink in Napa; it’s his best finish as a PGA Tour member.
On the back of a Sunday 62, which included birdies on all of his final six holes, Doc Redman vaulted himself into a T-3 at the Safeway.
Nineteen-year-old Akshay Bhatia made his first cut on the PGA Tour this weekend. He finished T-9 and took home a tidy $167,000.
George Coetzee finished off the Portugal Masters with back-to-back rounds of 66 to beat Laurie Canter by two strokes. Tommy Fleetwood and Joakim Lagergren finished T-3. Portugal Masters Results
Miguel Ángel Jiménez outlasted Steve Flesch to win the Sanford International on the PGA Tour Champions. Results
Kevin Kisner tweeted a bad tweet, deleted the bad tweet, and apologized. Full Story from Brian Wacker
The Latest from The Fried Egg
SGS Spotlight: Payne Stewart and ’99 U.S. Open with author Kevin Robbins
It’s about three months later than planned, but it’s U.S. Open week and the Shotgun Start is grateful for that. To get in the mood for the national championship, Andy and Brendan have this bonus Spotlight episode thanks to the U.S. Open’s Victory Club. This is a different approach from previous USGA spotlights on 2006 Winged Foot, 2007 Oakmont, and Bubba Dickerson’s 2001 U.S. Amateur win. They are joined by Kevin Robbins, journalist and professor at Texas, who spent years researching his book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever. Brendan and Andy do their usual Spotlight debrief at the top, covering the nuts and bolts of Payne’s career, some amusing tidbits from his 1991 U.S. Open win, and then dive into a long chat with Kevin about Payne’s evolution as a person and player going into that famous 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. The championship at Pinehurst is also covered in detail with a cast of heavyweights contending on a venue that is now and will be an anchor for the U.S. Open. And Kevin gets at the topic of what made this year such a line of demarcation in the game of golf. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: Backboard Inspiration, Stew Cink climbs to the mountaintop, Scheffler WDs
It is Victory Monday for only one half of the Shotgun Start thanks to some late heroics from Mitch Trubisky. The Browns, however, provided no such heroics or hope and Brendan has to fume a bit on more season opening despair before they turn to golf and the backboard bonanza finish at the ANA Inspiration. They discuss how this became the prominent feature of the tournament and Sunday’s finish but dispute any notion that Nelly Korda got screwed by the backboarding of Mirim Lee. On the PGA Tour, they marvel at a 47 year old ascending to No. 1 in the world and the amusing ways the Tour talked about the “weather” in California this week. There’s also ruminating about the Chicago Highlands venue on the KFT, Miguel Angel Jimenez’s celebratory moves in South Dakota, and the life and career of one George Coetzee. News touches on Scottie Scheffler’s WD, Kevin Kisner’s tweet, and Mizuno maybe putting their thumb on the scale when it comes to LPGA coverage. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
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