8/12/19

Slow science

Teams Reed and Ruffels triumph, the Physicist combusts, and the KFT regular season wraps up

by

Under the watchful eye of Lady Liberty, Patrick Reed shot a final-round 69 to win the first leg of the Purple Courier Cup Playoff event, the Northern Trust Open. Upstaging Reed’s first win since the 2018 Masters was Pace-of-Play Drama™, sparked by a video of Bryson DeChambeau taking over two minutes and thirty seconds to hit an eight-foot putt. Let’s get into this week’s golf—and golf-adjacent—action. There was plenty of both.

Silver lining

Since his 2018 Masters win, Patrick Reed has had a rocky road back to the top. There was the adolescent drama of the Ryder Cup, the Justine-mandated trips to Club Champion, the Justine-mandated lessons with David Leadbetter, and an overall disappointing performance on the course for much of 2019. That all changed in Detroit, where Reed notched a T-5. He then strung together five straight top 25s before winning yesterday. The victory moves Reed up to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup Standings. How quickly an uneven season can become almost the best one in FedEx Land!

Runner-up Abraham Ancer made the only real charge at Reed. On his 72nd hole, Abe had a 42-foot putt for a tie. Instead of nudging it up there to secure the solo second, he made a bid for the playoff, running it seven feet past. Happily, he made the come-backer, all but guaranteeing himself a spot in the Tour Championship and next year’s Masters. Fortune favors the bold. Read Christopher Powers’s full contextualization of this moment here.

At T-3, Jon Rahm moved into the top five in the standings, and Harold Varner III vaulted from outside the top 100 to inside the top 30. Adam Scott, having a quietly excellent season, took solo third, while Spieth, Rory, Oosty, and Snedeker tied for fourth. After a final-round 67, Jordan Spieth has to be chuffed that he did not, as has been his tendency lately, completely melt down after getting in contention on Friday. He did shoot 74 on Saturday, though. The holy grail of four good days continues to elude him. Northern Trust Leaderboard

Pace-of-play-gate; or, Brooks vs. Brandel; or, Brooks vs. Bryson

On social media this past weekend, the actual golf took a backseat. It started on Friday morning, when Eric Patterson tweeted a video of Bryson DeChambeau taking over three minutes to hit a 70-yard shot from the rough. As The Fried Egg’s own Will Knights pointed out, however, a few factors made Bryson’s slow pace in this situation not as objectionable as it seemed. 

The real firestorm began that evening when, in a reply to Patterson’s tweet, Brett Kauffman mentioned that Bryson had taken an “embarrassing” amount of time to hit a putt on No. 8. When none other than Joel Dahmen (lol Twitter) asked for the receipts, the guys at Fantasy Golf Pod obliged. The video was damning: a simple eight-foot putt, Bryson repeatedly checking his green book while taking over two minutes to hit the ball, and playing partners Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas doing little to conceal their boredom and exasperation.

Welp, things began to move quickly. Here we must resort to bullet points:

  • The European contingent—Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher, and Eddie Pepperell—weighed in on Twitter. Pepperell had the most pointed comments, calling Bryson a “single minded twit.”
  • In response to Christina Kim tweeting, “More respect to Justin Thomas for sticking it out and waiting for the putt to fall,” Thomas replied, “It was hard to! [clock emoji].”
  • Roberto Castro dismantled DeChambeau’s “scientist” image.
  • After his round on Saturday, Bryson unleashed an all-time rant in the media center. Here’s how the press conference started: “REPORTER: Are you aware— BRYSON: Let’s talk about slow play.” Dude was READY. And angry. Very, very angry about being singled out by the media and his competitors—which, hey, understandable. But here’s the key: DeChambeau does not believe he is slow. Therein lies the problem.
  • During a discussion of slow play on the Golf Channel, Brandel Chamblee snuck in a shot at Brooks Koepka. As an example of how “the rudest players you ever play with are the fast players,” Chamblee showed a clip of Koepka standing in the fairway in front of Rory McIlroy, supposedly in Rory’s line of sight. Brooks, as he does, clapped back hard on Twitter, and Brandel, to his credit, promptly took the L.
  • On Sunday morning, Eamon Lynch relayed the following delicious anecdote: “Was standing on the putting green with Koepka’s caddie earlier when an irritated Bryson DeChambeau walked up & told him to tell his boss to make any comment about slow play ‘to my face’. Brooks arrived soon after, got the message & ambled over for a chat with the scientist.” Yeah, that one went viral.

Perhaps in an attempt to contain the wildfire, the PGA Tour published a promise to review its pace-of-play policy. That’s a significant step, no doubt, but the devil will be in the details. As Tom Doak likes to say, “Never forget who runs the Tour—it’s the players.” If enough PGA Tour members recognize a self-interest in enforcing pace-of-play standards, something will change. If not, we can expect more of the same.

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Cards on the line

Golf. Back to golf. The most dramatic golf of the weekend came in Portland at the Korn Ferry Tour’s season-ending WinCo Foods Open, where the top 25 in the season-long race was finalized. Bo Hoag punched his ticket to the PGA Tour with a win after a stellar final-round 65. Hoag moved from 31st in the KFT standings to No. 7. WinCo Foods Open Leaderboard

Joining Hoag in “The 25” was Scott Harrington, who finished runner-up. Harrington has been toiling on developmental tours for 17 years without once earning a PGA Tour card. A year ago, Harrington put his career on hold to help his wife battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Now his wife’s cancer is in remission, and he’s headed to the PGA Tour. Awesome.

The regular-season finale can produce great moments like that, but it can also be the scene of gut-wrenching ones. Yesterday, it was Vince India’s turn for heartbreak. After a stellar tee shot on the 18th, he had an outside shot at the win, but disaster loomed around the green. Ultimately he walked away with a double bogey, falling from inside the top 75, which would have earned him a trip to next week’s Korn Ferry Finals, to 85th. He’s headed back to Q-School, which, after flirting with a win and a PGA Tour card, had to be brutally disappointing. Unsurprisingly, though, he was pure class in the aftermath.

Aussie Aussie Aussie

USC’s Gabriela Ruffels won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, birdieing the final two holes to secure a one-up win over Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela. Ruffels became the first Australian to win the event, an unlikely accomplishment given that she didn’t play competitive golf until she was a teenager. A talented tennis player, Ruffels decided to commit to golf just five years ago. Down the stretch of the 36-hole final, she and Valenzuela were both nails. Ruffels threw a dart on 17, and Valenzuela responded with another on 18. Ultimately, though, Ruffels sealed the match with a slippery, curling putt on the final hole.

Quick Hooks

With a closing barrage of birdies, South Korea’s Mi Jung Hur pulled away for a four-shot victory at a very soggy Ladies Scottish Open. Leaderboard

After a six-event partnership, Jason Day and caddie Steve Williams split, citing a “disconnect of old school and new school.” Is that code for “he bossed me around too much”? Full Story

The Latest

Perry’s Nine at Prairie Dunes – Garrett Morrison explores Perry Maxwell’s original nine holes at Prairie Dunes Country Club, which sit embedded within today’s 18-hole course. After spending a hot afternoon playing Perry’s nine, he became convinced that it was the finest nine-hole golf course he had ever played.

Shotgun Start: Gangs of New York: Bryson, Brooksy, and the slow play scandal at Liberty National

The content gods smiled down on us all again in the golf world. Before we get to the slow-play drama, we begin with some reflections on the final round of the Northern Trust and how different, inorganic, and frankly boring it felt compared to the drama of other pros playing for their jobs at the Korn Ferry event in Portland. Is this a reaction you had as well? In addition to the FedExCup and Korn Ferry shuffle, we also cover the wild fluctuation in weather at the Ladies Scottish Open that had one player questioning the integrity of the event. The amazing Gabi Ruffels and the U.S. Women’s Amateur is also given just due. Then we move to the main event—the viral video of Bryson DeChambeau’s slow play, his reaction, others’ reactions, and the putting green confrontation with Brooks Koepka. We review and give the many statements around it a “bunk rating,” from Bryson saying he was attacked and that “carts would be nice,” to Brooksy calling for more confrontations, to Brandel saying the fastest players are the rude ones, and the PGA Tour frantically tweeting they’re addressing it. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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