Chris Kirk’s unusual offseason routine, Jon Rahm gets robbed and a crazy golf record that might never be broken
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we wish betting on golf was as easy as betting on the Golden Globes. At least, during the “Succession” era. As usual, this all-time great TV show won just about everything it was nominated for, including best drama. And no, I’m not just saying this because I work for Warner Bros. Discovery. Although, shout-out to “Barbie” for also doing well and carrying the entire company with those box-office receipts.
Just to show I’m being fair, my only complaint was that in the best actor category Cieran Kulkin beat Gary Oldman from “Slow Horses” on Apple TV+. Cieran is great, but there should be an investigation launched into how that happened. Right after the investigation into the officiating of that national championship game between Michigan and Washington. Well, if the NCAA is finished investigating Jim Harbaugh’s team. You get the point, there needs to be some investigations. But in the meantime, we’ll stick to investigating what’s going on in the golf world.
Chris Kirk: After claiming the PGA Tour’s Courage Award in November for his inspiring comeback from alcohol abuse and depression, Kirk claimed the biggest win of his career (so far) at the season-opening Sentry. Talk about having a happy New Year. While people in much of the country, including yours truly, is digging out from snow, Kirk not only played golf for a week in Hawaii, but took home $3.6 million for his troubles after defeating an elite field with a ridiculous score of 29 under. (Kapalua’s Plantation Course was playing about as much defense as the Washington Commanders these days.)
We’re also potentially buying his offseason routine that led to Kirk’s sixth career PGA Tour victory. That included playing golf exclusively left-handed for a month. And getting good enough to shoot 82.
That’s humbling for us normal golfers. EXTREMELY humbling. These guys are (too) good. According to Kirk, the exercise helped rekindle his love for the game. “It brings back a little bit of the kind of childlike nature of the game, and my expectations are so low that it is way easier to be happy about what I'm doing than it is right-handed, to be honest.” Must be nice, Chris.
Kevin Kisner’s TV debut: Golf’s own version of “Succession” might just be the situation surrounding NBC’s top golf analyst job. Gone is Paul Azinger, who replaced a Logan Roy-type titan in Johnny Miller, and Kisner became the latest to give gig a try after Paul McGinley took a spin in that seat last month at the Hero World Challenge. And for being his first time behind the mic—and for someone worried about getting “canceled”—he fared nicely, especially when breaking down technical stuff or roasting one of his buddies like he did here with Jordan Spieth:
Kisner maintains his playing days are far from over—he's making his 300th career PGA Tour start this week at the Sony Open—but he’ll get another crack at cracking on players from the booth at next month’s WM Phoenix Open. After that? Who knows. But again, if NBC is still looking for someone …
Patrick Koenig’s year: Shout-out to this guy for not only playing an absurd 580 rounds of golf in 2023, but for doing it on 580 different courses! Koenig shattered the previous record of 449, and we had him on The Loop podcast to discuss his wild year back in October. Again, there are people like Barry Gibbons and Nolan Krentz, who have played more golf in a year, but to travel (and get on) to that many tracks? This might be an unbreakable mark. Even more impressive might be how he decorated his RV throughout the 12 months:
Well played, Patrick. But let’s see you pull off something like this if you ever have kids!
Jersey Jerry’s week: With all due respect to Kirk or Kisner, it was a former pipe fitter turned Barstool Sports personality who took over the golf world last week. Introducing Gerard Gilfone, AKA Jersey Jerry, whose hole-in-one challenge captivated America before ending with an ace after more than 36 hours (just minutes after a pep talk from Tom Brady!) and 2,627 attempts on Pebble Beach’s famed seventh hole. Well, in a simulator.
What a warrior. What an entertainer. What a wedge player. Well done, Jerry. And he’s this week’s podcast guest. So check that out, too.
Jordan Spieth’s luck: At least, when I bet on him. The Golden Child has a reputation of being fortunate on the golf course, but as soon as I put a wager on him he starts getting the kind of bad breaks I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies—including being buried under the lip of a fairway bunker on No. 16 at Kapalua during Sunday's final round:
Kevin C. Cox
Really sick stuff. The golf gods might owe him come April. Just saying.
Jon Rahm/Ludvig Aberg getting robbed: First off, congrats to Scottie Scheffler and Eric Cole on winning the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively. If you take away his putting, Scheffler had one of the greatest statistical seasons ever, but those stats “only” translated to two wins, while Rahm had four, including a major. To me, the choice was obvious, and given the timing of the announcement, it’s hard to think the Spaniard’s move to LIV didn’t affect this outcome.
As for Cole, he’s an incredible underdog story. The 35-year-old has grittily stuck with the game like Jersey Jerry stuck with that hole-in-one challenge. That being said, giving him ROY over Ludvig Aberg would be like giving that award to Tim Herron over Tiger Woods in 1996. On the bright side for Ludvig, we found out that he only pays fellow PGA Tour winner and Swede Vincent Norrman $400 per month rent. Which, these days, is much more valuable than any trophy.
Jon Rahm’s vacation: As in we’re selling it being a big deal. There were several reports that Rahm, the defending champ at The Sentry now suspended from the PGA Tour, was vacationing down the road from Kapalua and that he even crossed paths with some of the players. But while some people found this odd, it seems like this was an obvious case of him having the lodging booked well in advance, not wanting to lose money by canceling and using it as a family vacation instead. Just because he’s now filthy rich doesn’t mean he can’t still be economical!
The PGA Tour remains in Hawaii for the Sony Open, AKA that other tournament in Hawaii. The scores at Waialae aren’t usually quite as low as they are at Kapalua, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see some fireworks here—like Justin Thomas’ 59 in 2017. Hey, you can basically issue a "59 Watch" the second these guys show up to a par 70.
Random tournament fact: Chris Kirk is a two-time runner-up at Waiale. And now he's coming off the win at Kapalua. Given that we know any celebrating he did was pretty tame, 25-to-1 odds is pretty tempting.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
—I will ever play 580 different golf courses in one year: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
—I will ever hit 2,627 golf shots in a 36-hole period: 1,000-to-1 odds
—Even if I did both, I still wouldn’t make a hole-in-one: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK (AWESOME DIVISION)
That's great. Even better if they picked up the tab at the halfway house.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK (NOT AWESOME DIVISION)
Seriously, how is this even possible? And how is it possible that the clubs look to be OK? Wild stuff. As always, Ts&Ps to all those checking their golf clubs on a flight.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
That’s right, Max Homa hit a drive 477 yards, although with the opposite conditions described by the PGA Tour’s Twitter King.
Unfortunately, there’s no video, but if ShotTracker says it happened, then it happened. We think.
CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Thanks to Gipper Finau, Tony’s younger brother, for sharing this hilarious clip of someone’s bold dumb attempt to play a recovery shot from a frozen pond.
Don’t try that at home, folks. This guy is lucky he didn’t catch a case of hypothermia with that golf ball.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
There was Justin Bieber showing off his golf swing (among other things):
And then there was comedian Katt Williams giving a hilarious reason for why you won’t see him playing from the tips:
Well said, Katt!
THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
"Dad?" Well played, Will. And in case you don’t get the joke, have a look back at him acknowledging his similarity to the actor by imitating the actor:
The tour needs to do a video with these two.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went to LIV Golf at the start, and I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realize that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger Woods’ position. We all turn professional to make a living playing the sports that we do, and I think that’s what I realized over the last two years. I can’t judge people for making that decision, so if I regret anything, it was probably being too judgmental at the start." —Rory McIlroy on the Stick to Football podcast. Leading to this tweet from Phil Mickelson:
Can’t we all just get along?
THIS AND THAT
Tiger Woods and Nike made their long-rumored breakup official after nearly three decades.
End of an era. A great era. Sad. A federal judge ruled Patrick Reed has to pay Brandel Chamblee and others for defamation stemming from his lawsuit. Not sad! (Reed's lawyer says they will be appealing the decision.) … The Masters Sunday broadcast drew 12 million people and was only the 131st-rated sports broadcast of 2023. But yeah, tell me how these golfers are worth these Shohei Ohtani contracts. … Congrats to longtime Golf Digest photographer Dom Furore on being named the recipient of the 2024 PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism. Way to go, Dom! … And finally, RIP the Costco churro:
Eating that thing every Saturday (yes, I got to Costco on a weekly basis) was truly one of the highlights of my week. And while I’m sure the new chocolate chip cookie will be great, nothing will replace that churro in my heart. Well, belly. What a dagger.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What will Tiger Woods wear next?
Will there ever be a “Succession” spin-off?
Will Costco ever bring the churro back? (Please.) (I’m begging.)