A real boondoggle of a newsletter

Troy Merritt seizes the lead at the Northern Trust, KFT players battle for cards, and Will Knights loses his mind


Shield your eyes, Troy Merritt’s shirts are back in the spotlight! Merritt leads the Northern Trust by one shot in the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Elsewhere, the battle for PGA Tour cards heats up in Portland, and the ladies go deep at the Renaissance Club. 

Sheesh! Look at those views!

The first round of the Northern Trust lived wayyy under par on Thursday. Thirty-two players shot 67 or better on Thursday, and more than half the field was in negative figures. Liberty National may look bad and boujee on the isthmus, but the pros took it to task. Northern Trust Leaderboard

It was a beautiful day for golf, but the moist conditions lead to many birdies. Despite all of the low scores, Troy Merritt was unequivocally the best during the first round. With nine birdies and no bogeys, you can be sure that Merritt didn’t hit many hosel-fades on Thursday. The 2009 Q-School medalist tied the course record with a 62 on Thursday and will take a one-shot lead into the weekend of the antepenultimate playoff event.

Merritt hasn’t had the easiest path in the PGA Tour, but he has racked up some tasty results. The 33-year-old has recorded a plethora of top-25 finishes, including two wins. 2019 has been a modest year, but he has been playing good golf of late. His runner-up at the Barracuda Championship has powered his recent surge, much like the mitochondria power the cell. He entered the week ranked 72nd in the FedEx Cup standings, needing a good week to move on to Chicago. Merritt would do well to be obsequious to the golf gods. But for now he pat himself on the back for his Thursday round, which was, in a word, scrumtrulescent.

(If you haven’t picked up on the protuberance of unusual words, today’s newsletter is something of a vocabulary experiment. The white claws and clamatos were flowing, the charcuterie board was fresh, and we decided to have some fun with the readers. Fortunately, we had papayas and tortillas to munch on, making our more-onerous-than-expected task somewhat pleasant.)

Leaderboard notes

Despite his lackluster play of late, Dustin Johnson was able to finagle a 63 on Thursday. DJ wanted to prove he wasn’t a jabroni, making seven birdies over his first round. What a threesome he made with Webb Simpson (65) and Jon Rahm (64)! (Whether it was a platonic or pseudo-platonic pairing we will allow Rex Hoggard to investigate.) With his strong play of late, Webb has become a ubiquitous and indefatigable tenant of the leaderboard.

Kevin Kisner (64), Rory McIlroy (65), Justin Rose (65), and Tony Finau (65) all shot their way into contention during the first round. Like the mouthfeel of a proper filet, all four players must find their current position tender and delicious.

Jordan Spieth put together a round of 67 at Liberty National. His Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Approach were in harmony for once, and he made zero bogeys. His game has been dubious recently, and his Thursday 67 may prove to be the golfing equivalent of a Potemkin village, but to call him overrated would be premature.

Bamboozled, flummoxed, and discombobulated, Tiger Woods shot an opening 75. Something is clearly erroneous with his back, and he is playing to protect it these days. Frankly, he stinks at the moment—it’s quite the conundrum!—and clearly he needs come recombobulation. The whole situation is giving us dipsomania.

Because of storms on Wednesday night, spectators were not allowed inside the gates until three hours after the beginning of play. This indubitably led to a quieter morning at Liberty National.

Flirting with the top-70 line, Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot a first-round 67. The barn rat has never played in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but he is off to a solid start. Hideki Matsuyama is one behind Kiradech after firing a 68.

Okay, rapid fire: Scott Piercy put together a Faldo-esque round on Thursday, making 16 pars on his way to an even-par score. Talor Perineum Gooch is unfortunately hurt, and did not qualify for this season’s playoffs. Cameron Champ foozled his share of putts during the first round, losing more than four shots on the greens. And no, the par-3 14th hole is not a Redan. Poop.

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The WinCo Foods Kerfuffle

Increased coverage of the Korn Ferry Tour has created tumescent interest around the WinCo Foods Portland Open this weekend. Players are fighting for those ever-valuable PGA Tour cards, and Robby Shelton is looking to assert his dominance. Shelton shot a first-round 61, plucking the lead away from Jimmy Stanger late on Thursday. It feels apropos for Shelton to top the Portland leaderboard, as he has been one of the best players all season on the KFT.

Leaderboard notes

It was a rough season for Norman Xiong. The former University of Oregon All American withdrew after nine holes on Thursday. This will be his 16th time not playing the weekend this season. At times, he must feel like he might as well be playing with gutta perchas. Still, Xiong is just 20 years old and has a ton of talent. Expect him to be back next season. Maybe he just needs to put the clubs in a lockbox, pack his portmanteau, and head for a tropical locale.

Jimmy Stanger put together a dastardly round of 63 to give himself a chance at a PGA Tour card. Stanger entered the week at 41st in the year-long race could certainly use a strong week in Portland.

Marty (Dou Boi) Dou (65) and friend-of-the-program Vince India (64) got off to great starts on Thursday. Whereas Skinny Vinny is focused on securing his KFT card for next season, Dou Boi still has a shot at the PGA Tour. While Marty may look like a prepubescent teen, he is well into his early 20s.

Comfortably inside the top 10 of the year-long race, Lanto Griffin shot a first-round 73. It may have been a rough day, but since he has his card locked up, Griffin will feel no need to defenestrate himself.

Byron Meth shot 68 in the first round, and he will need to go much lower over the weekend if he hopes to earn his PGA Tour card. Still, three more solid rounds should earn him his 2019-20 Korn Ferry Tour card.

Quick Hooks

The Renaissance Club was no match for the LPGA on Thursday. Ten players shot 66 or better in the first round of the Ladies Scottish Open. Jane Park, Mi Hyang Lee, and Anne Van Dam led the charge with 63s. Leaderboard

Just eight players remain at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Club. Scoring

Rory McIlroy is a fan of aggressive slow-play penalties. Full Story

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Shotgun Start A fan-less FedExCup and a chat with the incomparable Harry Higgs on earning his card

We begin this Friday episode with a discussion of what Andy calls a glimpse into the future: golf tournaments with no fans. The Northern Trust went fan-less to start the first round, but the lack of distractions outside the ropes did Tiger’s game no favors. We get into Tiger’s decision to play this week and the statement “Tiger should retire” is even uttered at one point. Flashback Friday reacquaints us with a former winner of this Playoffs event who has fallen off a cliff. Then we get to a delightful interview with Harry Higgs, who earned his PGA Tour card this season on the Korn Ferry Tour after a recent win in Missouri. Higgs is a great personality worth rooting for in the KFT Finals the next month and on the PGA Tour next year. He is candid about self-doubts coming up through college and the self-belief to eventually get to the Tour. We go into the wild nights on the Latinoamerica Tour, where he was order of merit winner last year, his college teammate Bryson DeChambeau’s chocolate milk habit, and money games with Jordan Spieth. Harry was incredibly forthright and entertaining and we appreciate him taking the time. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Pro Shop

This newsletter was incredibly silly. It would also be silly if you chose to sit around in uncomfortable t-shirts! Grab yourself a short sleeve or long sleeve B. Draddy Fried Egg tee and lounge in comfort! They’re definitely better than Troy Merritt’s shirts!