Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)



The Grind

Anthony Kim rumors cause a stir, a PGA Tour rookie has another historically bad putt, and the cruelest golf photo ever taken

January 30, 2024

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are happy Nick Dunlap turned pro. Sure, college is fun, but if the finance major didn’t realize this was the smart choice, then I would have questioned what exactly they’re teaching in those finance classes at Alabama.

Now with this “easiest, hardest decision” he’s ever had to make behind him, the 20-year-old Roll Tide rep rolls into Pebble Beach as a pro. Let’s talk about that and everything else going on in the world of golf.

WE’RE BUYING

Matthieu Pavon: The 31-year-old Frenchman continued what has to be the craziest run of longshot winners in PGA Tour history. A DP World Tour winner and a PGA Tour rookie, Pavon was 140-to-1 before the Farmers Insurance Open, making him practically a favorite compared to the three guys who previously won to begin 2024 at 200-to-1-plus. As it usually does at Torrey Pines, it came down to the par-5 18th, and boy, did Pavon deliver, getting Jim Nantz excited from a booth somewhere in Baltimore:

Pavon made history becoming the first Frenchman to win a PGA Tour event (if you don't count French-born Martin Trainer in 2019). And with the win, not only does Matthieu get a two-year exemption, but he also gets into all of this year’s signature events, including this week at Pebble Beach. Hope he packed some extra clothes!

Nelly Korda: Incredibly, the woman with the perfect golf swing hadn’t won a tournament in more than a year and it looked like that would continue as she reached the 17th hole on Sunday at five over. But an eagle-birdie finish forced a playoff with Lydia Ko that she wound up winning. It was an amazing finish by Ko as well, who made her own eagle on 17 as these two LPGA stars battled it out at the Drive On Championship on NFL Championship Sunday:

Unfortunately, the playoff loss kept Ko out of the LPGA Hall of Fame for now (more on that in a bit), but it’s a huge boost for Nelly getting back on track. And the more big names the LPGA has playing well (it would be nice if the PGA Tour stars started showing up, too!), the better. Just hopefully next time it’s happening when there aren’t two huge football games going on.

Aldrich Potgeiter: This guy makes Nick Dunlap look old. OK, not quite, but at 19, the South African became the youngest golfer to ever win on the Korn Ferry Tour. And, yes, he got to keep the first-place check because he turned pro after last year's U.S. Open:

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Mike Mulholland

Considering the previous two youngest winners in KFT history were Jason Day and Sungjae Im, this dude probably has a nice PGA Tour career ahead of him as well.

This guy’s ‘Year In Review’: There’s overshare Christmas card person and there’s annoying golf buddy who gives you a blow-by-blow of every round he plays. And then there’s this guy who manages to combine the two, but I actually love it! Via Ryan French, AKA Monday Q Info on Twitter, meet John Minnium, a Nashville golfer who every year puts out a freaking mini-magazine documenting his golf season:

John just jams that thing with photos and stats, and even a Q&A with himself! It’s so over the top that it works! Apparently he prints out 100 of those bad boys every year, leaving me with one question: How do I get on his mailing list?

WE’RE SELLING

Jumping to conclusions: The day after Mattieu Pavon’s big win, this video went (semi-)viral of him walking around his golf ball in the rough on 18:

I’m OK with posting that and posing the question of whether there was foul play, but to convict this guy in the court of public opinion as many did isn’t fair. Especially because you can’t even see his ball! In fact, if you look closely at where he’s looking down, he doesn’t step anywhere near there. And you’d have to assume he was looking down at his ball to make sure he didn’t step on it.

Also, this notion that he ran ahead of his playing partners so he could cheat is preposterous. There are hundreds of people watching him in person and millions via the HD cameras located a few feet away. If anything, I’m guessing he went ahead to give himself more time to assess the biggest shot of his life. Anyway, Pavon is not guilty of anything in my book and I feel bad that he had his reputation hurt—at least, in a small corner of Golf Twitter.

Anthony Kim’s comeback: Speaking of jumping to conclusions, while the Golf.com report of AK at least considering a comeback is surely true, actually making one is a a lot different. Then there was another video that went viral of a supposed recent swing of his—before people found out it wasn’t actually a recent swing. Everybody, calm down, OK? I love AK as much as anyone, but let’s wait to get all worked up about him returning until we have a little more solid info.

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Ian Walton

Also, as our Joel Beall pointed out, expecting much from an injury-plagued guy 12 years removed from playing on the PGA Tour is silly. Would it be fun to see him out there with his big belt buckle again? Sure. But it would also be sad to watch the guy struggle. And he’d risk ruining the mystique that’s been built up around him the past decade. Plus, there’s that reported insurance policy to consider. AK might need Nick Dunlap to help him break it all down from a financial perspective.

This putt: Tom Whitney is one of the best stories in golf, but he also has two of the worst putts ever caught on camera. The former Air Force cadet did this in a Korn Ferry Tour event last year:

And now a 34-year-old PGA Tour rookie, Whitney managed this at Torrey Pines:

So he now has arguably the shortest and worst putts in golf history. And he was in charge of our nuclear missiles! No, but seriously, this guy is a hero. Thank you for your service, Tom. Just maybe be a little more careful out there on the greens.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour remains in California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, AKA that one Aaron Rodgers “sandbagged” his way to the title in the pro-am portion last year. Hey, those are Josh Allen’s words, not ours. This year, it's a signature event, so it’s a stacked field that this storied venue deserves. And, again, it’s Nick Dunlap’s pro debut. And if that’s not enough, Jon Rahm makes his LIV debut as that season gets under way with the Mayakoba event. And they’ve already turned him into a meme for the occasion!

And for the occasion—not to mention LIV also adding Tyrrell Hatton to Rahm's team—I'm bringing back my song "A Rahm December:"

Crazy times in pro golf right now. Anyway, to talk about that and more, we had LIV golfer and PGA Tour winner Abraham Ancer on this week’s The Loop podcast:

Random tournament fact: Brendon Todd and Brandon Wu finished runner-up to Justin Rose here last year marking the first time a Brendon and a Brandon have finished runner-up in the same PGA Tour event. (Totally making this up, but it must be true.)

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Anthony Kim will win on the PGA Tour again: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds

—Rory McIlroy will win on the PGA Tour this week: 7-to-1 odds (Actual odds, favorite)

—Nick Dunlap will spend a little more this week than usual: LOCK

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Not only did Lydia Ko come agonizingly close to winning and gaining entrance to the LPGA Hall of Fame, she came physically close to the bouquet of 27 roses (one for each point needed to reach HOF status) and bottles of bubbly on ice to celebrate her potential accomplishment with a poor approach on the first playoff hole:

You can’t make it up, folks. In fact, this might be the strongest evidence yet that golf gods actually exist. And that they are really, really cruel.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Ben An is on fire on Twitter of late. Last week, it was a couple Nick Dunlap-related gems, and this time, it’s, well, see for yourself:

Remember, kids, steroids are bad for your health.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (WELL PLAYED DIVISION)

Imagine making your first hole in one at the rowdiest par 3 on the planet?

OK, so those grandstands were empty, but still, pretty darn cool. And with that swing—and that backspin—I’m surprised it’s that dude’s first. Makes me feel a little better about (still) not having one.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (NOT WELL PLAYED DIVISION)

Kevin Kisner attempted to hit a flop shot over a college golfer's head . . . and wound up possibly giving him a concussion:

Unless it's Phil Mickelson himself, I won't let anyone try this trick on me.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Rob McElhenney wanted to get his swing roasted by Max Homa after playing in the Farmers Insurance Pro-Am. Instead, his wife and fellow "Always Sunny" star Kaitlin Olson did the job:

Well played, Kaitlin! (And solid swing, Rob.)

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

It’s fair to say Nick Saban is feeling pretty good about that decision to retire.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you Exhibit A as to why I had the great Joe Lacava drive me around the PGA Tour for 22 years.” —Fred Couples tweeting a photo of him having a pushcart accident.

Whoops. Thanks for not looking cool, Freddie. For once.

THIS AND THAT

Congrats to Rory McIlroy for being named Golf Digest’s latest Arnie Award winner. I’m guessing he’d rather win a fifth major, but this is a nice consolation prize. . . . Beau Hossler became the 17th golfer in PGA Tour history to reach $10 million in earnings without a win. Not the best list to be on, but certainly not the worst. . . . My Golf Digest piece on prolific actor (and blossoming golf buddy) Domenick Lombardozzi is now live. Check it out here. . . . And, finally, I took the girls to their first basketball game and . . . they didn’t hate it. Although, I have no clue why Maddie was making this face:

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Shout-out to the Pelham girls led by coaches (and established golf buddies and fellow HGGA champions) Timothy Pitrulle and Mark Finegan. Go Pelicans! (Yes, that’s actually my high school’s mascot.)

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

What’s the most random school mascot?

Should I start sending out a golf ‘Year in Review’?

Does Anthony Kim still wear those big belt buckles?