The pack and the Wolff

Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler sit atop the Waste Management but Matthew Wolff stole the show


After two days of living a few dozen degrees below par, we have officially reached the end of the polar vortex and emerged in February. The month begins with a three-way tie in Scottsdale with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Harold Varner III atop the Waste Management leaderboard. Thomas Pieters leads the way on the European Tour, and Xinjun Zhang holds the top spot in the Web.com event in Colombia.

The Garbage Tournament

While the WMPO is over-commercialized, the event has a long history of exciting leaderboards. JT, Rickie, and HV3 each shot rounds of 64 on Thursday but are chased by a large group of contenders. Thomas and Fowler got the party started by posting early numbers, and Varner III came in during the afternoon wave. JT and Rickie each have strong track records around TPC Scottsdale, so their performances are almost expected this week. HV3 is no stranger to leaderboards but is still in search of his first career PGA Tour victory. Full Leaderboard

Other Leaderboard Notes

Crying Wolff – The mass American public got their first glimpse at the next big thing, Matthew Wolff. The Oklahoma state star didn’t disappoint, shooting a first-round 67 to get himself into a tie for 11th through one round. The 19-year-old sophomore has taken the NCAA by storm this year with his unusual swing and strong overall game. He had six drives of 335 yards on Thursday and hit sixteen greens in regulation.

His Lair(d) – Martin Laird fired a first-round 65 to sit just one shot back of the leaders. Laird spends the winter months in Arizona and consistently puts up strong finishes at this event. He has finished inside the top 10 three of the last four years at TPC Scottsdale.

The Scrum – A ton of big-name players are sitting just a few shots back of the leaders. Bubba Watson (66), Xander Schauffele (67), Jon Rahm (67), Webb Simpson (67), Phil Mickelson (68), Gary Woodland (68), and Hideki Matsuyama (68) are all in position to make some noise this weekend.

Pieters Pipes a 63

One round is complete at the inaugural Saudi International, and Belgian Thomas Pieters holds a two-shot lead over the field. The former Illinois golfer made seven birdies and no bogies on his way to the top. Pieters broke into the professional landscape with three victories in 2015/2016 but has cooled off the past two seasons. He did win a team event last fall with former Illinois teammate Thomas Detry, so it would appear that his game is coming around. Ross Fisher, Joost Luiten, and Chris Paisley are amongst the group of names closest to the lead of Pieters.

Outside of the actual golf, the Saudi Arabia tournament is making news with player sound bites and interviews. Leaderboard

Tough week for Scientists

Two days after defending his pace of play, DeChambeau made controversial remarks after his first-round 68. DeChambeau lauded the European Tour and Saudi Arabia for “growing the game” stating:

“What the European Tour is doing for the game of golf is beyond my expectations, I think a lot of other people’s expectations as well. They’re growing the game internationally and especially in a place like Saudi Arabia, it’s fantastic to see the world opening up a little bit to them. They’re showing us, ‘Hey, we’re a place just as beautiful as the rest of the world’, so I think it’s amazing what Saudi Arabia and the European Tour are doing.” Video link

Switching Hemispheres

Xinjun Zhang fired an opening-round 61 to take the lead at the Country Club de Bogota Championship on the Web.com Tour. Zhang made eight birdies and an eagle on his opening round but finds himself with just a one-shot lead. Ten players shot 64 or better on Thursday. Also in the top 5 are former Longhorn Scottie Scheffler (63), Sebastián Muñoz (64) and James Driscoll (64). Colombia’s own Ricardo Celia also shot 63 on a sponsor’s exemption and finds himself just two shots off the pace. Leaderboard

Quick Hooks

A Special Olympics golfer got the opportunity of a lifetime this week as she teed it up with Gary Woodland on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. Watch Amy and her amazing short game HERE!

The Jones Cup Invitational gets underway on Friday on Sea Island. The nation’s best collegiate players will be on display early in the spring semester.Leaderboard

The Latest Podcasts and Articles

Shotgun Start: A sendoff for the Desert Fox
A twofer for the weekend. With it being the last event that golf icon Johnny Miller broadcasts. Brendan and Andy had Johnny Miller’s longtime caddie Andy Martinez on the Shotgun Start for a Special edition. Martinez dives into the war stories from 12 years on the bag with Miller during his prime. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify

Matt Wolff’s big debut, Bryson’s Saudi propaganda, and Augusta’s new 5th hole

Following Thursday’s interview with legendary caddie Andy Martinez, who served as Johnny Miller send-off homage, Brendan and Andy close out the week discussing the early action from Phoenix and Saudi Arabia. In Phoenix, they hit on Matthew Wolff stealing the show for the golf nut crowd. They ponder Wolff’s ceiling and how he’s the start of a new way elite prospects are recruited and prepped for the big leagues. They also spend time lamenting another blowout Fan Vote Friday. Then they swing over to Saudi Arabia for a segment of scorn directed at Bryson DeChambeau, who came off as a dunce lauding the beauty of Saudi Arabia and the “grow the game” potential of this event. The lengthening of Augusta’s 5th hole gets a cursory review before they close with a Flashback Friday focused on some ignominious moments from Tiger and Bubba at TPC Scottsdale. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify

It was a busy January on the website and podcast! Here’s a rundown of what you might have missed from the site.

Golf and the craft culture – A look at how craft-oriented consumers and social media are combining to bring about the second Golden Age. Read here

Architect Roundtable: Degrees of intervention – A discussion with leading architects about the spectrum from minimal to maximal site interventions Read here

Browner Pastures – A story about the legacy of pasture golf and the founding of the backyard club Brough Creek National Read here

January Mailbag – Part I and Part II

It’s never sunny in Philadelphia: Recounting a trip around the Philadelphia area, exploring its public golf offering. Read here

The ComMUNIty Project: A look at the Washington D.C. municipal golf courses – Part I & Part II