Welcome to another edition of The Grind where we've never stopped paying attention to a contending Tiger Woods like we did on Sunday. The news that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter accident suddenly made it tough to concentrate on the Farmers Insurance Open. Like many others, I've followed the remarkable careers of Kobe and Tiger from their days as teen phenoms to living legends. I even wrote my first-ever sports column for my college paper comparing Bryant to Michael Jordan. I know, I know, how original.
Kobe certainly had his flaws, but you can't argue the impact he had on the world. As Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard pointed out, 13(!) PGA Tour pros list him as their favorite athlete in their media guide bios. He was bigger than a sports star, bigger than a brand. His Mamba Mentality is a movement. And one that isn’t going away anytime soon. So let’s keep Kobe in our heads, at least for his relentless drive and tireless work ethic. And let’s keep Kobe, his daughter GiGi and the seven other victims of this tragedy in our hearts as a reminder of how precious our time on Earth is. OK, time to talk about some happier stuff.
Marc Leishman: The Aussie won the Farmers Insurance Open while playing with a different tragedy on his mind, providing the latest victory for a country looking for any good news. “Pretty amazing, particularly with all the problems that have been happening back in Australia with the fires and people losing their lives. Just devastating really,” Leishman said. “So if this can bring them a little bit of joy, it’s a big win for me personally and then for them as well. I hope this can bring them a bit of joy.”
Leishman joins Cameron Smith as Aussie winners on the PGA Tour in the past three weeks. Plus, Lucas Herbert won the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Well done to all three providing a much-needed boost and raising awareness and relief funds for what’s happening Down Under.
Sebastian Soderberg: The Swede didn’t come close to winning in Dubai, but he did shatter the European Tour record for fastest round by shooting a Sunday 75 in 97 minutes. Soderberg and his caddie, younger brother Jasper, also got in their cardio workout by 8:45 a.m. and had the rest of the day to do whatever they wanted. How efficient.
When it comes to playing quickly, though, Soderberg couldn’t quite catch Wesley Bryan, who played a solo Sunday round at the BMW Championship in 89 minutes. Oh, and shot 69, by the way. That prompted this Grind video in which I tried my best to speed talk like the Micro Machines Man in Wes’ honor:
In any event, golfers of every skill level don’t need to play this fast, but we could all pick up the pace a bit. So to guys like Wes and Sebastion, thanks for the inspiration.
Tiger Woods’ new driver: Not to give TaylorMade free advertising here, but Woods sure looked comfortable swinging the new Sim driver around during his T-9 at Torrey Pines to kick off 2020.
While Phil Mickelson has resorted to wildly swinging out of his shoes as he approaches 50 (he hit 2 of 14 fairways on Friday), Woods has throttled back by hitting what he calls a “slap cut.” He’s hitting more fairways, his misses are manageable, and “slap cut” is instantly one of my all-time favorite Tigerisms.
Jon Rahm’s Sunday: First of all, that was a rough start. I mean, wow. ROUGH. It makes you wonder how much more pressure he was feeling to win this tournament than a Euro Tour event. . . To the Spaniard’s credit, though, he made a furious late rally only to come up one shot short. But making matters worse is the fact he thought he was actually tied for the lead when he tapped in for birdie on 18. How can you not know where you stand in a tournament?! How could he not know he needed eagle on 18?! That’s a bad job. A really bad job.
Bryson DeChambeau’s finish: On the bright side, Bryson says his new bulk has “opened new boundaries I never thought were possible.” But his recent quote about hitting it so far that his pace of play won’t matter didn’t hold up too well as DeChambeau was given a bad time on the back nine while contending in Dubai. Also not holding up too well was his play down the stretch as he threw away his chance to defend his title. . .
Coincidence? Maybe. But this is certainly something to keep an eye on, especially when he plays on the European Tour.
Tiger’s bad break: Seriously, how in the world did this not stay in the hole?!
No, seriously. How? Did anyone ask Bryson? Tiger out here doing magic tricks.
The PGA Tour heads to TPC Scottsdale for the country’s biggest annual boozefest, which also coincides with a golf tournament. Welcome to the Waste Management Phoenix Open! Please try not to get arrested! And if you’re playing golf like Bryson DeChambeau, please try to keep up with the group in front of you!
Random tournament fact: It’s been one year since Johnny Miller signed off on NBC for his last tournament. I miss you, Johnny. I miss you every day. Well, every Sunday, at least.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
—Tiger Woods would ever make a leader board gaffe on the final hole: 1-MILLION -to-1 odds
—Tiger Woods will win the Masters: 10-to-1 odds (Actual odds, now a co-favorite)
—Johnny would have a LOT to say about Bryson this week: LOCK
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
Eddie Pepperell is the best. And he followed it up with this update after he and Bryson played together on Sunday:
Well, other than that bad time, of course.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (PGA TOUR EDITION)
This is pure golf porn, folks.
Nicely done, PGA Tour.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (EUROPEAN TOUR EDITION)
And kudos to the European Tour CONTENT makers as well for this gem of a game pitting Viktor Hovland and Andrew "Beef" Johnston:
Just don't try this at home. Unless your course is completely empty.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Lucas Herbert is a European Tour winner. And an honest bloke:
Hope Monday morning wasn’t too painful, Lucas. You’re only 24! It gets much, much worse. Trust me.
THIS WEEK IN PGA TOUR PRO-WAGS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Get it? “Boat” load? Good stuff, Jena. Also, by my extensive research of Jena's Instagram account, this is the first time she's posted a photo of the couple on a boat together since May 4 of last year. What's significant about that? Brooks won the PGA Championship that week. So he's basically a lock in Saudi Arabia this week.
And how about C.T. Pan going shopping with his wife and sometimes caddie, Michelle:
Looks like someone learned his lesson from that time he knocked Michelle’s caddying skills on national TV.
THIS AND THAT
The Players Championship's purse will increase $2.5 million to $15 million total with $2.7 million of that going to the winner. And no one even batted an eye. . . . Phil Mickelson missed his second consecutive cut to start a calendar year for the first time in his career. And at No. 86 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he might have a few more holes on his schedule since he currently isn’t qualified for a slew of big events. . . . Speaking of the OWGR, Jordan Spieth dropped out of the top 50 for the first time since his rookie season. That historic 2015 campaign seems like it was decades ago. . . . The Premier Golf League, a possible PGA Tour competitor, is drawing interest from players, including Rory McIlroy. The bad news for Phil and Jordan? These would be 48-man events. Ouch. . . . And finally, it looks like I need to find a new hiding spot for my fruit snacks. . .
She’s a crafty one. And like Kobe, I'm a proud girl dad. RIP Kobe and GiGi.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What's the golf equivalent of Kobe's 81-point game?
How fast could I play 18 holes walking?
How much should I bet on Brooks Koepka?