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The Grind

Anthony Kim’s ‘HATERS,' Joaquin Niemann’s millions, and Tiger Woods’ latest disappointment

March 05, 2024

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we start with a triumphant comeback. Yep, after three years months weeks away, I returned to Costco. On my surgically repaired right knee. And with my two favorite little helpers:

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Man, it was great to be back. And the place looked just like I remembered it. The churro remains gone, but that hot dog and chocolate chunk cookie hit the spot. And my favorite pasta was even on sale. Oh, did you think I was going to talk about another comeback? My bad, let’s get to that and everything else going on in the world of golf.

WE’RE BUYING

Joaquin Niemann: That’s right, we’re starting with LIV, because, well, this guy is suddenly the hottest golfer on the planet. And, although Paul Azinger’s scorching take went a bit far, LIV has clearly made up a lot of ground on the PGA Tour in a short time. Anyway, Niemann won for a second time in three events on the new tour, this time by four shots in Jeddah:

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Francois Nel

Add in a victory at the Australian Open in December and invites to the Masters and now the PGA Championships and it’s been a fantastic few months for the 24-year-old Chilean. I was impressed enough with his play early Friday morning when I downloaded the CW app to watch Anthony Kim, that I even tossed a few bucks on Joaco to win at Augusta National. OK, let’s talk about AK . . .

Anthony Kim’s comeback: We stick with LIV and one of the biggest stories of the year in golf, and what should have been one of the biggest stories of the decade. Unfortunately, it lost some of its luster by happening in the middle of the night in the middle of an event with virtually no history, but it was still cool to see golf’s most mythical figure roaming the fairways—or, desert with some of his wild shots—again:

I know I wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be at the start of last week, but when LIV hit everyone with a flurry of videos, it hooked me. That being said, he’s going to have to play better than finishing dead last by 11 shots to get me to tune in that early again.

Anyway, I’m rooting for my fellow girl dad. And I hope he doesn’t think I’m a HATER (more on that in a bit).

Austin Eckroat: The 25-year-old is the latest Oklahoma State product to win on the PGA Tour, and he did it in impressive fashion at the Cognizant Classic. In unfamiliar territory as a 54-hole co-leader, and having to deal with weather delays that caused a Monday finish, Eckroat looked completely unbothered during a final-round 67 that gave him a three-shot victory:

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Brennan Asplen

Eckroat continued a run of longshots winning on the PGA Tour to start the year. And the Monday finish didn’t help with generating any buzz, but this dude is legit. He finished runner-up at the Byron Nelson last year and tied a U.S. Open record by shooting 29 in the final round at LACC on his way to a T-10.

WE’RE SELLING

Joaquin Niemann’s whining: I can’t believe we’re talking about this again, but enough’s enough. Once again, Niemann took a victory interview to complain about his spot in the Official World Golf Ranking:

We get it. Everyone knows you’re a great player and that your ranking isn’t indicative of that. But does it matter when you get invited to play in the Masters and PGA anyway? (Also, LIV withdrew its application for OWGR on Tuesday so your own tour isn’t even fighting for it anymore.) Not to mention, you just won about $8 million for six days of playing golf. That’s more money than 99.9 percent of the planet will make in their lifetime and more golf than I will play for months with my knee. Just be happy and pipe down.

Anthony Kim’s “HATERS”: I liked everything about the LIV social media push around Anthony Kim until it got to the end of that comeback commercial. “HELLO HATERS, I’M BACK”? Huh? Have a look:

Again, it’s great. And that song is fire. But who exactly are AK’s haters? Doubters? Sure, but HATERS? All golf fans have been doing for the past decade is building this guy up into a legend and begging him to come back. My guy Christopher Powers did a nice job breaking it down here:

I get that athletes do this me-against-the-world song and dance a lot. Even guys like Travis Kelce and Klay Thompson claim “NO ONE BELIEVED IN US!” while playing on dynasties. It’s absurd. Just like . . .

PGA National’s setup: What happened to this place? What happened to the BEAR TRAP?! This tournament used to set itself apart by playing like a U.S. Open with gator-filled water hazards, but the past couple years has produced scores like a typical PGA Tour event, seemingly to lure more guys into playing. SEVENTEEN under par winning? A year after 14 under producing a playoff? It’s more like the BIRDIE TRAP now. Disappointing.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour continues its Florida Swing by going to Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, AKA that event Arnold Palmer used to host, AKA that event that Tiger Woods used to win every year. Sadly, Tiger is not in the field after playing in the one-day Seminole pro-member on Monday and finishing a disappointing T-40 in the gross division with partner Seth Waugh (Congrats to Mackenzie Hughes and Frank Edwards, BTW). That placed him one shot behind the team of Vinny Giles and 71-year-old Gary Koch (AKA “BETTER THAN MOST!).

So like with most of the PGA Tour’s stars, it hasn’t been a great start to 2024 for Tiger. You’d think someone who is playing so sparingly would at least play at a place where he’s won EIGHT times. But I guess he’s really taking that “once-a-month” plan literally and playing one round a month.

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Andy Lyons

Meanwhile, the LPGA heads to China, LIV heads to Hong Kong, and I’ll be celebrating a birthday when all the tournaments wrap. Let’s just say I’ve reached the point where my age is no longer a good nine-hole score. Oh, and Netflix’s “Full Swing” Season 2 drops on Wednesday—and so does a special bonus episode of The Loop podcast breaking it all down because we got to watch it early. SPOILER ALERT: It’s good. It’s really good.

Random tournament fact: Again, Tiger has won EIGHT times at Bay Hill. And he’s not playing. Even with a $25 million purse up for grabs. And not even for my birthday. Sigh.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Joaquin Niemann will win the Masters: 25-to-1 odds

—Odds I bet on Niemann to win the Masters: 55-to-1 odds

—Odds Niemann will NOT win the Masters now: LOCK

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Man, that’s two CP mentions by me this week. Hope it doesn’t go to his head too much.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (ON-COURSE DIVISION)

The only thing worse than SIX-putting? Having the cameras rolling while you’re SIX-putting:

Poor Thomas Detry. Guessing he’ll be hearing about that one for a while.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (KINDA ON-COURSE DIVISION)

This is also possibly the cutest video of the year:

“I’m getting ice cream for that!” That’s great. And a great trick to try with my own girls.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (OFF-COURSE DIVISION)

As someone who regrets never taking lessons as a kid and playing tennis instead of golf in high school (even with the golf team getting to play courses like Winged Foot and Westchester), this one got me:

Well done.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Tua Tagovailoa played the Cognizant Classic pro-am with Nick Dunlap and gifted his fellow University of Alabama product a signed football:

Knowing how crazy Alabama is about their football team, this probably meant more to Nick than the trophy he got for winning the American Express.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Welcome to the 18th green winners club, Mr. and Mrs. Eckroat!

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Ben Jared

It’s a nice club to be in. You never know if you’ll ever be back, but we hope to see you guys again soon.

QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK

“I’m here to bust everyone’s ass.” —Anthony Kim. Whoops.

THIS AND THAT

Congrats to Hannah Green on winning the HSBC Women's World Championship by birdieing the final three holes to keep Celine Boutier from winning and becoming the new World No. 1. Sorry, Celine. . . . Congrats to Jordan Gumberg for winning his first DP World Tour title at the SDC Championship by beating Robin “Tiger” Williams in a playoff. This Tiger double bogeyed the penultimate hole to keep him from winning. . . . Shout-out also to James Nicholas for finishing T-12 in the event because he’s from the MET area—and his dad, Dr. Stephen Nicholas, did my knee surgery. See you again soon, Doc. . . . Congrats to Gary Woodland for winning the GWAA’s Ben Hogan Award for “overcoming a physical handicap or serious illness.” Of course, he’s much happier to simply be alive after undergoing brain surgery in the fall. . . . And, finally, Steve Stricker told us on this week’s episode of The Loop podcast that he’s toying with asking Tiger Woods to join forces with him at the Zurich Classic:

And now that’s all I want for my birthday.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

What’s the best birthday gift you’ve ever received?

When will Anthony Kim tell what really happened?

When will Costco step up and sponsor The Grind?