Grayson Murray’s fall and rise, Yuan’s controversial drop | Monday Finish

This week’s Monday Finish features unlikely winners, missed short putts, a controversial drop and an intriguing comeback story.

The post Grayson Murray’s fall and rise, Yuan’s controversial drop | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

This week’s Monday Finish features unlikely winners, missed short putts, a controversial drop and an intriguing comeback story.

The post Grayson Murray’s fall and rise, Yuan’s controversial drop | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where it’s cold outside, so we’re bumping our New Year’s resolutions to Feb. 1. Let’s get to it!

IN AND OUT

Who won — and lost — the week?

IN: Tommy Fleetwood, closer

Nobody’s calling the Dubai Invitational the fifth major, but Tommy Fleetwood shot 63-67 on the weekend, chased down Rory McIlroy and finished birdie-birdie to win for the seventh time on the DP World Tour. You often hear how he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, but don’t let that eliminate what Fleetwood has done from the conversation.

OUT: Questionable sponsor exemptions

Again, nobody’s calling the Dubai Invitational the fifth major, so you don’t have to write to your local officials in protest of Ken Weyand, the 54-year-old GM at Grove XXIII (Michael Jordan’s course and a popular pro hang in south Florida) getting a sponsor’s invite. Still, shooting 87-82-82-86 wasn’t a great look when it left him 39 shots behind second-to-last. I will say, though, I give Weyand credit for playing all four days…

IN: Grayson Murray, playing better

Last summer, Grayson Murray was grousing about the PGA Tour’s direction in a player’s meeting when Rory McIlroy reportedly told him to “play better.” After earning his PGA Tour card and winning his first start of the 2024 season it’s safe to say that Murray has taken that to heart.

His win coming in Hawaii was only fitting, given Waialae in 2021 was the site of a drunken incident at a bar that marked one low point near the beginning of a rocky journey back to the top — a journey he acknowledges is still not complete. There was a PGA Tour hearing. A trip to a treatment facility. An extended break from competitive golf. When Murray returned to the course he backslid in other areas; in a chat with the PGA Tour’s Cameron Morfit he cited a 2022 scooter crash in Bermuda where he drove into oncoming traffic and left the hospital with 50 stitches. Another incident followed in April in Mexico, where his first-round 68 was followed by too many drinks at the resort pool, a second-round 79 and, when he returned home, a vicious anxiety attack.

Murray has been sober for eight months now, he says. He’s charged up the world ranking since then, with Sunday’s victory at the Sony Open taking him inside the top 50 in the world. His victory was unlikely up to the final moment. (Murray birdied the final hole in regulation, and then on the first playoff hole his tee shot skirted through a tree, his wedge shot left him a 40-footer, he made that 40-footer and his opponent missed a shortie, leaving him the winner.) But getting himself to that place was a sign of just how far things have come. Now he’s exempt into Signature Events for the rest of the year and a member of the PGA Tour for the foreseeable future.

“I think a lot of things are going right in my life right now and I’m at peace,” Murray said.

OUT: Playing the ball as it lies

Carl Yuan‘s controversial drop quickly became the talk of the [small corner of the golf] internet because 1. The Packers-Cowboys game was a blowout, 2. He was tied for the lead and 3. These guys sure seem to get some friendly rulings…

So what happened? In short, Yuan (who you may know as Mr. 126) launched his second shot at the par-5 18th from the left fairway bunker in the direction of the hospitality down the right side, where it appeared to land on or over the tent — and then disappear. Just minutes later, though, Yuan was dropping in the fairway just 45 yards from the hole, in prime position to get up-and-down for birdie and a potential tournament win.

He ended up missing his birdie putt. But things got interesting when Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis revealed the ball had never actually been found…

“After looking at video evidence they determined with virtual certainty that the ball went into that hospitality area, that temporary immovable obstruction (TIO),” Lewis said. “They also had some testimony from the folks in those hospitality suites, so it was determined that the ball was lost in those tents, and that’s why he was able to get that relief without penalty.”

Per the USGA’s rules on TIO relief, a player is entitled to relief if his ball “has not been found but is known or virtually certain to have come to rest in a TIO.” In other words, Yuan got the benefit of the doubt. He came away with a T4 in the process.

IN: Missing short putts

One short putt in particular brought joy to the pro golf masses: Joel Dahmen‘s missed five-footer for birdie on the 18th green on Friday night at the Sony. Had it fallen, Dahmen’s putt would have pushed the cut line to three under par, knocking out 17 players in the process. Instead he lipped out, sending an additional horde on to the weekend.

Brandon Wu was among those who took advantage; he shot 64-67 on the weekend to finish T18. As for Dahmen? The par likely hurt his own cause, as he wound up T72. Still, a little goodwill in the locker room never hurt…

OUT: Missing short putts

I guess this is “out” as in “not in,” which describes the result of putts down the stretch for would-be winners Rory McIlroy (in Dubai) and Ben An (in Hawaii).

First there was McIlroy, who was surging on the back nine at Dubai Creek before this happened:

Those two shorties stayed out and, combined with McIlroy’s water ball at No. 18, proved to be a major factor in his one-stroke loss to Fleetwood.

As for An? He appeared to be in the driver’s seat on the Sony’s first playoff hole when his eagle chip settled inside four feet and his two opponents faced lengthy birdie tries. But then Murray canned his and then, well…

IN: Global golf chatter

McIlroy laid out an intriguing vision for pro golf’s future — one that would carve out a space for team golf in a shoulder season (presumably where LIV could live) while also combining the powers of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a Formula 1-style schedule. (No, he’s not the first to think of this — just the latest notable proponent.) Is McIlroy speaking with inside knowledge, given his proximity to golf’s global leadership? Or is he just shooting from the hip now that he’s left any official role in PGA Tour governance? TBD. Anyway, here’s that vision, via a Dubai Invitational press conference:

“I think informally, we sort of have most of that global schedule, anyway,” he said, referring to top PGA Tour players. “If you look at what all the tournaments that all the top players play, informally, sort of without any structure without it between a few different tours, I think we have at least the majority of what a global tour would look like. We still need to make sure that the biggest tournaments are in America; obviously that’s the biggest place that we play.

“But also trying to elevate some of the other tournaments around the world: You know, trying to, Middle East, Continental Europe, U.K. and Ireland, the Far East, whether it be Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa. I mean, you’ve got a lot of different opportunities there.

“If everyone is talking about growing the game and trying to, especially if these investors are going to come into our game and they want a return on their capital, I think everyone needs to start thinking more globally around it but globally in a holistic way. Not really like, this tour, that tour and another tour.

“Like, okay, what is the best structure for elite professional golf, the top 70 to 100 guys in the world and what would that look like, especially if the game is going to look different going forward and everything is on the table. I just think it’s worth having that conversation.

OUT: European golf leadership

Keith Pelley (head of the DP World Tour) and Martin Slumbers (head of the R&A) each announced departures from their respective roles this week. Pelley’s leaving to take a role at the head of Maple Leaf Sports Group in Toronto and he’ll be replaced by longtime deputy and DP World Tour exec Guy Kinnings. Pelley teased to the Telegraph that he’ll be in his position for the next three months and hopes to have a deal with the Saudi PIF by then.

As for Slumbers? His departure comes in the midst of a controversial golf-ball rollback that has understandably dominated R&A headlines — but that shouldn’t overshadow the measures he’s taken throughout his tenure to make golf more “accessible, appealing and inclusive” to his constituents. Happy trails to both of ’em. And best of luck to those taking over…

IN: Cantlay’s new hat

There’s been plenty of scrutiny on the headwear of World No. 6 Patrick Cantlay ever since his hatless Ryder Cup — but now we know what’s coming for 2024. Cantlay will be rocking the logo of Apollo, a private equity firm with more than a half-trillion dollars under management. He’ll be Apollo’s “first brand partner,” according to a press release. I don’t have much of an opinion on Apollo’s asset management but I will say that in terms of font and total word count, “Apollo” marks a clear improvement over his “Goldman Sachs” cap of last year.

Patrick Cantlay's new Apollo hat.
Patrick Cantlay’s new Apollo hat. Apollo

OUT: Kisner’s other hat

That’s supposed to be wordplay referencing Kevin Kisner, who has worn multiple hats in the first two weeks of the PGA Tour season as broadcaster and competitor. He fared better in the booth; Kisner was a welcome addition to the action at Kapalua last week before joining the field at this week’s Sony Open, where he shot 75-71 to miss the cut.

Still, he was good for a couple highlights in a Friday afternoon walk-and-talk. After heckling Jordan Spieth for a missed three-footer the week before, Kisner three-putted from four feet just before coming on TV.

“I think it’s karma,” he said. “Jordan Spieth is as home scratching on that [voodoo] doll, getting me.”

Kevin Kisner's walk-and-talk was full of insights — and deadpan humor.

Kevin Kisner’s considering 1 interesting strategy after broadcast debut

By: Dylan Dethier

It’s worth noting that Kisner was still above average on the greens for the week. The long game presented a tougher challenge, though. And it wasn’t clear if bad karma was also to blame for Kisner’s driver, which had snapped mid-swing on the sixth hole. But I found another observation more interesting: Kisner said that going forward he’ll consider watching more early TV coverage in an attempt to figure out where the majority of players are missing certain putts.

“Once you start watching guys putt you can really pay attention to what the greens are doing and where guys miss a lot of putts over and over again,” he said.

Looking forward to more Kisner on and off the course. But here’s hoping he dials in his ball-striking. (And finds a new driver.)

IN: Keegan’s new shirt

It’s not just Min Woo Lee and Jason Day  Keegan Bradley is getting in on a new apparel deal to start the new year, too.

Bradley has signed on to be the first professional golfer to represent Flag and Anthem, marking the end of his deal with TravisMathew. He’s in good company: other brand ambassadors include running back Christian McCaffrey, country music singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley, and NASCAR’s Ryan Blaney.

Keegan Bradley rocking Flag and Anthem.
Keegan Bradley rocking Flag and Anthem. Flag and Anthem

So far, so good for the partnership: Bradley very nearly won the Sony Open before his birdie putt drifted by on the 72nd hole. He settled for a T2 finish after losing in a playoff, but still — the shirt seems to fit.

OUT: Tiger’s old shirt

So long, Tiger and the swoosh. I can’t summon any more sorrow than my editor, Alan Bastable, already did here. So let’s just wait until we see what’s next.

NEWS FROM SEATTLE

Monday Finish HQ.

While Seattle is almost never warm in the winter, it doesn’t generally spend much time below freezing, either. That has made the cold spell of the last week or so particularly jarring; I’ve got a couple friends with frozen pipes and chilly houses. As a result I haven’t been particularly tempted by the temp greens of local golf courses — though perhaps I’d be better off in 22 degrees and sunny than 38 and raining, like we’re getting next week. Last week’s trip to Hawaii feels far away already.

WHAT’S NEXT

3 things to watch this week.

1. LPGA is back!

This week’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions kicks off at Lake Nona in Orlando, marking the welcome beginning of the 2024 LPGA season. The field is comprised of 35 winners from the past two seasons; they’ll pair up with celebrities in the pro-am field but the individual portion is very real. Keep an eye on recent Scoop guest Nelly Korda, who went winless in 2023 but always seems to find her way to the top of this leaderboard.

2. Daniel Berger is back!

It’s Comeback Szn, with the returns of Gary Woodland and Will Zalatoris top of mind at this week’s Sony. But now that the PGA Tour is returning to the continental U.S., Daniel Berger is returning with it; he’ll tee it up for the first time since missing the cut at the 2022 U.S. Open, joining a surprisingly star-studded field at this week’s American Express. There’ll be more to say on Berger later this week, but for now we’ll just say good luck. It’ll be great to see him back.

3. LIV signings are back!

They will be, at least, as LIV attempts to fill the final spots on its 2024 roster. The deal-makers are hard at work. These next few days I expect we’ll get a better sense of who they’re dealing with.

We’ll see you next week.

The post Grayson Murray’s fall and rise, Yuan’s controversial drop | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

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