Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

The Loop

Brooks Koepka's late arrival, Lexi Thompson's costly travel fail, and the best Happy Gilmore swing ever

July 30, 2019

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are particularly happy the PGA Championship moved to May this year. As a result, my annual golf trip, the 2019 HGGA Championship, will get the proper spotlight it deserves this week as the true final men’s major of the season. GLORY’S LAST SHOT will be waged at Turning Stone Resort & Casino and since everyone participating is a native New Yorker, fans are guaranteed to see a popular “homecoming” victory. So get your pen ready, Jimmy Roberts, because you are going to be able to craft quite the touching closing essay for this one. But first, there was a lot happening around the rest of the golf world. Let’s discuss.


Brooks Koepka: If there was any doubt who the world’s best golfer was (there shouldn’t have been), Brooks put an end to that with a final-round drubbing of Rory McIlroy to win his first World Golf Championship to go along with those four majors. He also claimed the season-long Wyndham Rewards Points race and the Aon Risk Reward Challenge to pocket an extra $3 million, while all but wrapping up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors for a second consecutive season. And in another bad sign for his challengers, Koepka led the field at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in strokes gained putting.


Ben Jared

Also, what’s the big deal about his lack of prep before the final round? Warming up for forty-five minutes before the final round of the HGGA Championship would be an eternity! Besides, Brooks doesn't need much to get going. What a finely tuned athlete. As long as he's not wearing yellow and/or paired with J.B. Holmes, just turn this guy loose and watch him go.

Collin Morikawa: I’m old enough to remember when Viktor Hovland was all the rage. But after he broke Jack Nicklaus’ amateur scoring record at the U.S. Open, he has been shown up by fellow newbies Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa. First, Wolff won the 3M Open (by a shot over Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau) and now Morikawa has joined him as a PGA Tour winner with his victory at the Barracuda Championship. Check out these finishes the 22-year-old has put up since turning pro at the Canadian Open: T-14, T-35, T-36, T-2, T-4, WIN. And how about these stats?

“He’s a robot,” Morikawa’s former California teammate, Max Homa, told "I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him hit a bad shot.” Imagine if he heats up with the putter?!

Bernhard Langer: The ageless one won another senior major, his 11th overall, and his fourth Open Championship thanks to a brilliant final-round 66 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. How does he do it?! How does he keep on winning?!

Oh, by actually staying in shape? Impressive. Actually, Langer, who turns 62 next month, still trails Hale Irwin by five on the all-time PGA Tour Champions wins list (Lee Trevino is a distant third with 29). And speaking of Hale, AKA the senior circuit's Bernhard before Bernhard, he stopped by the Golf Digest office to be on this week’s podcast after receiving this year's Payne Stewart Award. Good times.

Jin Young Ko: And just like that, the LPGA has a superstar named Ko. Again. After winning the ANA Inspiration in April, Jin Young, 24, won her second major title of the year the Evian Championship.


Stuart Franklin

Her third overall victory of the season moved her to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings. By the way, Lydia Ko, 22, is down to (gulp) No. 21. . . Speaking of troubling trends. . .


Rory McIlroy: Considering the amount of great golf he has played this year, McIlroy may wind up with the most disappointing two-win season in golf history. Also disappointing? Him walking (home) in Memphis on Sunday to a T-4. Golf Twitter was abuzz after Rory’s Saturday 62 that gave him the 54-hole lead and put him in the final pairing with Brooks Koepka. But instead of a great duel, golf fans were treated to a bit of a snoozer as Koepka cruised to victory.


Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Again, I realize this guy is held to a higher standard, but that's just the way it is. There are many who still argue his "A-game" is the best. It may well be, but we haven't seen it often in final rounds—or in majors—of late.

"Can’t you just use a rental set?": Apparently, that’s what a British Airways customer service representative asked Ryann O’Toole after the airline lost her golf clubs ahead of the Evian Championship. O’Toole eventually got them on the eve of the tournament (she finished T-62), but not surprisingly, that line didn’t go over well with her. “Yeah, let me just give a race car driver an automatic and see how he races,” she said. Yeah. . . it wouldn’t be quite that dangerous, but point taken. In any event, I’m just glad we’re driving to Syracuse for the HGGA Championship. I shudder to think about dealing with that nightmare on the eve of a major. My biggest concern for the ride upstate is what snacks to bring in the car.

Lexi Thompson’s week: Speaking of travel woes, Lexi sure caused some for a big group of her fellow golfers when she left her passport in her golf bag. A van transporting 38 players’ luggage had to pull over while Lexi’s caddie drove to retrieve the document. As a result, anyone affected by the delay lost a day of practice ahead of this week’s Women’s British Open. Here's a photo taken by Golf Channel's Randall Mell when the bags finally showed up:


Rough for those involved. I hope she picked up lunch for everyone the next day. And things didn’t go much better at the previous major for Lexi, who not only missed the cut, but posted a pretty scathing Instagram criticizing the course (that has since been taken down.)


Some of the world’s best golfers will be battling for their livelihoods at this week’s Wyndham Championship, AKA the last event of the PGA Tour's regular season. And seven (yes, seven) of the world’s most mediocre golfers will be battling for a tattered, faded green jacket at Turning Stone Resort & Casino.

Random tournament fact: Nine of the 10 points leaders in the Wyndham Rewards standings aren’t in Greensboro this week because pretty much all these bonus-earning spots have been locked up. So much for that being a big deal!


— Webb Simpson will win the Wyndham Championship: 10-to-1 odds (Actual odds, he’s the favorite)

— I will win the HGGA Championship: 10-to-1 odds (Definitely NOT the favorite with a seven-man field)

— I will lose money at the casino: LOCK


As I mentioned, Hale Irwin stopped by the office. And this photo of the three-time U.S. Open champ, a three-time HGGA champ (me), and zero-time golf champ Sam Weinman somehow wound up on Getty Images:

Payne Stewart Award Recipient Media Tour

Sarah Stier

Look, mom! I made it!


I’m on record as calling for the end of all “Happy Gilmore” swing videos, because they’re played out and can be dangerous. However, I must give credit where credit is due and Paige Spiranac absolutely nailed this:

Nicely done, Paige. And to those requesting feet pics from her (Rex Ryan?), please stop being a creep.


I’m not a big fan of gender reveal parties to begin with, but I'm especially not fond of ones that might cost someone from ever having kids of any gender again. Watch—and grimace:


"I had to learn about match play by Googling it last night. I definitely like playing it more than stroke play.” —Kelly Xu, 15, after upsetting Duke-bound Erica Shepherd in the first round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior. What a world, huh?


Another week, another guest on Phireside with Phil. This time, Padraig Harrington stopped by to tell a humorous story about how Mickelson made him pay through the nose, well, bottle, when he lost an on-course wager to him.


The Koepka crew (Chef Parker!) had a fun flight home following another big win:

And things look like they got a bit crazy onboard:


That’s why I’ve never worn white pants in my life. Too scared of messing them up. But I’m pretty sure Nike will hook her up with another pair.


Good luck to Akshay Bhatia, who announced he will turn pro in September following the Walker Cup to play in the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open. Not bad work for a 17-year-old. . . . Congrats to Harry Higgs for winning his first Korn Ferry Tour title at the Price Cutter Charity Championship. You may recognize him as the guy who played the role of George Costanza in the tour’s recreation of the famous “Marine Biologist” scene from Seinfeld.

A man of many talents. . . . Congrats to Adare Manor in Ireland for being named the site of the 2026 Ryder Cup. Maybe someday the venue will be lucky enough to host a future HGGA Championship as well. . . . And finally, a trip down south led me to my favorite spot as a kid, Sonny’s BBQ:


So much for my Mickelson “hard reset” diet ahead of my final major.


Why isn’t there a Sonny’s BBQ in New York?

How much would it cost to bring one here?

What should I Google before my big tournament?