Twilight Tiger, early St. Andrews arrivals, Open’s hottest pro | Monday Finish

Tiger Woods showed up early to St. Andrews to play two rounds with Justin Thomas. That and more in this week’s Monday Finish.

The post Twilight Tiger, early St. Andrews arrivals, Open’s hottest pro | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

Tiger Woods showed up early to St. Andrews to play two rounds with Justin Thomas. That and more in this week’s Monday Finish.

The post Twilight Tiger, early St. Andrews arrivals, Open’s hottest pro | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we just flew from Seattle to Edinburgh — and boy are our arms tired. Let’s get to it!

FIRST OFF THE TEE

Twilight at St. Andrews.

Time will tell what emerges as this Open Championship’s signature moment. But as far as enduring images go, it’s going to be tough to beat Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas walking the Old Course’s back nine in the fading light on Saturday night, chipping and putting their way around the most hallowed undulations in golf.

We’ve gotten used to seeing new sides of Woods in recent years, but this was our first look at the carefree-golf-until-it’s-so-dark-you-can’t-see Woods. This version has acknowledged this might be his last chance to be competitive at St. Andrews and is seizing each day accordingly. That’s how he and Thomas ended up on the 18th hole in the dark like two kids squeezing every minute out of a midsummer round.

Thomas posted a photo from the 18th green taken at 10:38 p.m. A day later he described the experience to Golf Channel‘s Ryan Lavner. “It was so sick, man,” Thomas said, explaining what we know to be true: this sort of outing wouldn’t happen anywhere else. “It was really cool.”

Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and a hundred or so of their newest friends on the Old Course on Saturday night.

Justin Thomas/Instagram

WINNERS

Who won the week?

Xander Schauffele’s momentum

Just how important was it for Xander Schauffele to notch a PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago?

“Yeah, just to get over the hump, honestly, it was big. It was a team win and it was incredible to share that with them. We’ve shared other team wins together and it definitely was a kickstarter for me as you can tell.”

The reason we could tell is because Schauffele was saying those words from another winner’s press conference at the Genesis Scottish Open. In between the Travelers and the Scottish, Schauffele snuck in a win at the 36-hole JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland. Three weeks, three countries, three trophies. Hell of a way to enter Open Championship week.

Carlota Ciganda, wire to wire

Spanish star Carlota Ciganda began Sunday’s final round at the Estrella Damm Ladies Open up four shots. By the time she double-bogeyed No. 9, that lead had turned into a one-shot deficit.

Not for long! Ciganda birdied No. 12, eagled No. 16 and birdied No. 17 on the way in, more than enough firepower to offset a couple bogeys as she posted a four-round total of 18 under par to win by two. The win was her sixth on the LET.

Trey Mullinax, first-timer

A victory at the Barbasol is sending Trey Mullinax to the Open Championship. It exempts him through the 2023-24 season on the PGA Tour. It marks his first career PGA Tour win. And it was a hell of an ending, too:

For more on Mullinax’s story — and his comeback from a freak Pro-Am injury — you can read it here.

Jerry Kelly’s birdies

One came at No. 16. Another came at No. 17. Together they sealed the deal for Jerry Kelly‘s second career Senior Players Championship, which he claimed at Firestone Country Club on Sunday after a final-round 68. He beat Steve Stricker by two.

Tony Romo, celebrity champ

Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo emerged from a three-way playoff over Joe Pavelski and Mark Mulder at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe to win the high-profile celebrity event. Romo birdied the first and second playoff holes to clinch his third title in the event, where he also won in 2018 and 2019, and would have earned $125,000 in the process but for his amateur status. His winnings went to tournament charities instead.

OTHER WINNERS

Good times for these guys, too.

Justin Thomas’ missed cut

I doubt Thomas had any intention of shooting 73-77 and missing the cut at the Genesis Scottish Open. But the aforementioned weekend at St. Andrews seemed like a pretty good consolation prize.

Final Open Championship qualifiers

Kurt Kitayama finished second at the Genesis Scottish Open. Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson finished T6. Under Open qualifying rules, the tournament’s top three finishers not already exempt made it through, provided they finished in the top 10.

Joohyung Kim, rising star

The world’s newest top-40 player was born in 2002. That would be 20-year-old Joohyung Kim, who turned pro at the ripe age of 15 and starred on the Korean and Asian tours. Sunday at the Renaissance Club he proved his game travels, firing a final-round 67 to finish solo third and earn the most world ranking points of his young career.

Patrick Cantlay, friend and rival

If Schauffele keeps winning every week, we’re guessing Patrick Cantlay might eventually stop being happy for him. But not yet. That’s largely because Cantlay’s playing well, too, with three top-fours and four top-15 finishes in his last six starts, including a T4 on Sunday. It’s fitting that the two are neighbors in the World Ranking now at Nos. 4 and 5.

NOT-WINNERS

Maybe next week?

The almost-qualifiers

Young Danish star Rasmus Hojgaard and young American star Alex Smalley were in position to snag one of those Open Championship qualifying spots until each found trouble at the brutish par-4 18th on Sunday. Both ultimately making 5s to finish a single shot behind Donaldson and Wu.

Jordan Spieth

To be clear, Spieth did exactly what he needed to do in the lead-up to the Open Championship. He worked his way into contention and did a bunch of magical Spieth things. But he didn’t quite get a dream ending to his tournament; he birdied No. 13 to get within a shot of the lead and then promptly made double bogey at the short par-3 14th. He slid to T10.

Greg Norman and the R&A

This week’s Open Championship celebrations won’t feature a certain 67-year-old two-time champion after Greg Norman was disinvited by the R&A.

Who wins here? Nobody! Had Norman chosen to appear, he would have been a sideshow. But not including him serves as a concrete reminder that professional golf’s rift has now affected its most storied and powerful institutions.

WHAT WE’RE SEEING

Pros showing up early.

Just how early do major championships start these days?! Our GOLF.com Scotland bureau spotted Justin Rose out for a round on the Old Course a couple weeks ago, which didn’t seem particularly crazy — scouting missions to major championship sites are plenty common. But Phil Mickelson showed up to St. Andrews last Thursday. Woods and Thomas each walked 18 on Saturday and Sunday. Several LIV defectors including Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau showed up early, too, making the most of their disbarment from the Genesis Scottish Open.

What do we make of this? Not much, except the obvious: This week means a lot. Whoever wins will own an Old Course Open and they’ll own the 150th Open title and they’ll own a hard-earned win against competition that has been here all week and more.

WHAT WE’RE HEARING

A firm, fast St. Andrews.

Without high winds or severe weather, plenty are wondering if St. Andrews will prove too simple a test for the modern game. One rebuttal: who cares? By all on-site accounts the course is running firm and fast, a combo that will demand both creativity and precision. Wherever the final score ends up with respect to par, the course looks perfect. We can expect that whoever wins will have negotiated a proper test the most effectively.

NEWS FROM SEATTLE

Monday Finish HQ.

GOLF’s Seattle bureau is transferring to St. Andrews for the week, which is a delight. I’ve never been to Scotland. I’ve been to one Open Championship, at Portrush in 2019, and it was a smashing success with one exception: I got some horrific food poisoning Saturday night, which somewhat marred my enjoyment of Shane Lowry‘s Sunday triumph. I’m hoping to avoid that this time around.

WHAT’S NEXT

3 things to watch this week.

1. Tiger Woods’ gait.

We’ll get another reminder this week of Woods’ new normal, which means a mix of good and bad. If you’re a pessimist you’d say he hasn’t looked overly spry walking St. Andrews in his practice rounds thus far. But if you’re an optimist you’d point out he just walked 36 holes in less than 24 hours and was still swinging by the end. His approach to this week is already different than his approach to the Masters and the PGA — we’ll see how it works this time ’round.

2. PGA Tour-LIV dynamics

By and large, I expect pros from all tours will get along just fine and dandy. That’s the golf way. But there has been some tough talk on both sides by now, and some pretty clear lines drawn in the sand. So it will be interesting to see how the R&A handles groupings and how early-week chatter affects player dynamics. This is high-stakes stuff, after all.

3. Xander Schauffele, hot hand.

Entering the Masters, Scottie Scheffler’s form seemed too good to be true — but then he won. Could Schauffele do the same thing this week, banishing talk of his lack of majors in the process? Or did he peak one week early? There’s only one way to find out…

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