In this week’s episode of Monday Scramble, Phil Mickelson crosses the finish line, the Super Golf League implodes in four days, Joaquin Niemann defeats the best field of the year so far, Tiger Woods returns (to hosting duties), and more.
Phil Mickelson managed to destroy his reputation, alienate his PGA Tour peers, and jeopardize his own intentions with the Saudi-backed Super Golf League in one dramatic interview.
It was efficient, but not particularly effective.
Among his many eye-popping admissions – including his willingness to overlook Saudi Arabia’s serious human-rights violations in order to gain leverage with the Tour – Mickelson confessed to golf journalist and author Alan Shipnuck that three unnamed players assisted in the planning of the alternative tour. That implies he’s not just thinking about joining a breakaway league; he’s also working to form one.
That discovery could result in him being sanctioned by the Tour (if it hasn’t already), and it wasn’t lost on his peers that he didn’t compete in Phoenix or Los Angeles, two of his most frequent trips. Mickelson is qualified but has not yet committed to The Players Championship, which will be held in three weeks in the Tour’s home. We may not see him again until the Masters, if at all.
On the other hand, it’s unlikely that the organizers of the projected Super Golf League were overjoyed when Mickelson referred to the Saudis as “scary motherf—-ers” and stated that he wasn’t sure he wanted the initiative to succeed. It’s understandable that his bizarre remarks alarmed some of those who were considering following the Hall of Famer into the unknown.
Mickelson’s diatribe, intended to energize a population that is either dissatisfied with the existing system or simply eager to profit, appears to have had the opposite effect. That book interview, combined with his media-rights diatribe against the Tour’s “obnoxious greed,” effectively killed the alternative tour before it even got off the ground, and it might land him in the Tour’s penalty box.
Mickelson has been silent for more than a week, and it will be interesting to see how he plays this story in public. In theory, he might follow in the footsteps of his performance at Gleneagles, where he purposefully blasted 2014 captain Tom Watson to help destabilize the United States’ Ryder Cup system. However, nobody should believe that he is simply a martyr striving to better the Tour’s working circumstances this time. This narrative was purely self-serving; Rory McIlroy described him as “naive, arrogant, narcissistic, and ignorant” on Sunday, implying that Lefty will have a difficult time regaining control of the locker room.
The best players, one by one, expressed their support for the PGA Tour at Riviera in what seemed like a concerted campaign.
Collin Morikawa is a Japanese actor. Jon Rahm is a musician from the United States. Viktor Hovland is a Swedish actor.
That young core is critical to the Tour’s long-term success, but the final blow came on Sunday, first in a statement from Dustin Johnson, then in an announcement from Bryson DeChambeau. Johnson stated that he remains “totally committed” to the Tour. “As long as the greatest players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, I’ll be playing it,” DeChambeau said.
The message was delivered in a variety of ways, but the message was clear: the PGA Tour will continue to be the top destination for the game’s elite.
“Who’s the last one to leave? There’s no one, after all. In my perspective, it’s dead in the water “According to McIlroy. “I just don’t see why anyone would want to go.”
The idea of a rival circuit isn’t dead – there’s far too much money at stake – but the PGA Tour can breathe easier for the time being.
This planned tour is little more than a safe harbor for the washed-up and uncompetitive without the game’s most controversial star (DeChambeau), and without the greatest players in the world.
Which isn’t actually a tour at all. At the very least, not one worth listening to.
It wasn’t always nice, but Joaquin Niemann won the Genesis Invitational by a comfortable margin, his first victory since the 2019 Greenbrier.
Niemann, who started the day with a three-shot lead, made only 38 feet worth of putts in the final round, reducing his comfortable lead to a single shot. When he tapped in on the 18th hole, the final margin was two, and he seemed relieved.
“When I finished, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, that took a long time, but we’re finally done, and I can smile and think about it like it was a good day,'” he added.
Niemann rose to No. 20 in the world after winning the Genesis (which had the best Tour field in six months). Despite the fact that he appears to have been around for a long time, Niemann is still only 23 years old, younger than Morikawa, Hovland, or any of the other young stars on the circuit.
The Chilean was one of the players suspected of being targeted by the rival tour, and he did little to dispel those concerns this week by refusing to discuss any discussions he’d had. It was revealed to him Sunday night that it had been a busy day in the sport while he was on the course, with some prominent players declining the breakaway league.
He was questioned if it would be difficult to continue down that route if the other great players didn’t want to go with him. His response was deceptively revealing.
“Obviously, everyone is here to compete against the best players in the world,” he remarked. “I want to fight against the top players in the world; one day, I hope to be No. 1.”
“I don’t believe there is anything greater than how I feel right now.” Nothing compares to winning a PGA Tour event, receiving a trophy, having Tiger there, and all the history that comes with it.”
Not even untold millions, it appears.
We still don’t know when Tiger Woods will be able to compete again.
Woods said in two interviews at Riviera, where he hosted the Genesis, that he plans to return to the PGA Tour in 2022, but he doesn’t know when.
Woods admitted that his rehab has a “far way to go” and that his hardest obstacle is actually the most basic aspect of the sport: walking 72 holes. He said he has to build leg strength and ankle mobility in the coming weeks and months, which includes more beach walks and endurance training at Medalist.
Woods looked and sounded better than he did a year ago at the Genesis. He appeared to be cheerful, upbeat, and enthusiastic. (You can read more about it here.) That was a positive takeaway, regardless of what happened this year or when he plays. His jumping up the 53 steps behind Riviera’s 18th green was also exhilarating.
Cameron Young is standing on the doorstep. The 24-year-PGA old’s Tour card was earned during a hot streak in the minors last summer, and now, after his second runner-up finish of the season, he’s on the cusp of breaking into the top 50 in the world (now 53rd). That would qualify him for the Masters and provide him the opportunity to build an elite schedule. A meteoric ascension.
Collin Morikawa, Collin Morikawa, Collin Morikawa, Collin Morikawa, Collin Morikawa, Collin Mo A strong week on the greens usually leads to a strong finish, and Morikawa did not disappoint at Riviera, finishing third in strokes gained: putting and tied for second with Niemann. (As the green approached, he was ranked 26th.) Look out if Morikawa can keep it up throughout the Florida swing and tighten up his usually great iron play — he’s on his way to becoming the world’s No. 1 player.
Bernhard Langer is in his sights. Langer won wire-to-wire and strolled to his 43rd career PGA Tour Champions championship after shooting his age in the first round (64) of the Chubb Classic, placing him within two wins of tying Hale Irwin for the all-time record. It was also his 16th (!) season in a row with a victory. He stated of the record, “I’m getting closer.” “I used to think, ‘Well, that’s practically difficult to achieve.’ Looking back, I’ve been eliminated from a number of playoffs in the last three or four years. I’d be right here if I’d won a couple of those.” Legend.
Augusta National’s Nip and Tuck. Last week, the club announced two significant adjustments in the Masters media guide: that length has been added to both the 11th and 15th holes. Adding 20 yards to the course’s last par 5 is a curious decision since it will necessitate a longer club into one of the most difficult greens to hold, with danger lurking around every corner. Please sign us up!
Viktor Hovland is better in theory. Never one to follow the crowd, Hovland skipped the 15th tee in favor of the 17th fairway, which he claimed provided him with a clear view of the green. Here’s an example of a good idea with poor execution: His approach distances were 74, 61, 47, and 74 feet from the flag. He made a 1 over par on the hole. No, we’re not breaking the code.
Head-scratcher: Are there any incoming fines? After Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen’s shirt-lifting antics on the 16th green in Phoenix, Higgs said that he’s likely facing a small punishment from the Tour, despite the Tour’s easy promotion of the actions on social media. It was a once-in-a-lifetime joke. Can’t we simply let it go this time?
Patton Kizzire is the early favorite for Up-And-Down of the Year. Kizzire had no choice but to play his chip shot one-handed, with his back to the hole, after his ball got stuck just outside the bunker near the 14th green. He blew it out to 44 feet… and then calmly poured in the par-saver, tipping his hat with a distinct grin on his face.
Very casual up-and-down par save from Patton Kizzire. pic.twitter.com/1HCBkOoDQA
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 20, 2022
Annika Sorenstam is back in action. The LPGA icon will compete in the U.S. Women’s Open this year, her first major title since 2008. Simply reaching the cut in the game’s most difficult event would be a great achievement for the 51-year-old Sorenstam.
Jon Rahm has high standards. The world No. 1 had a rare off week against the strongest field since August, requiring a 6-footer on the final hole just to make the cut. With a final-round 65, he tied for the low score of the day and finished in a tie for 21st… his second-worst 72-hole result on Tour since May. Yes, he’s a ruthless individual.