Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we feel more fortunate than ever to be doing whatever it is we do as 2019 gets undwerway. On my latest morning commute, I heard two men in suits barking about how “these are only supposed to be $15-to-$20 million deals!” And there I was wearing jeans and worried only about who/what in golf to “buy” and “sell” this week. Sorry, mom, for not going into business, but my job is juuuust a tad less stressful. Anyway, here's to another fun—at least, for me—year of talking golf. Let's get started because there's a lot to get caught up on.
Xander Schauffele: When everyone refers to you as underrated, can you still be considered underrated? I tend to think not, but I do believe my fellow Alexander is still relatively under the radar for someone who is now No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking after picking up a fourth career PGA Tour title — AKA reaching the “Rickie” threshold — in the past 18 months.
This one will garner Xander more attention than the others thanks to the incredible ELEVEN-under 62 he shot in the final round (that even included an opening bogey and a topped tee shot!) to track down Gary Woodland, who only shot a bogey-free, five-under round on Sunday at Kapalua's Plantation Course. Poor guy. Anyway, at 25, Xander has to be mentioned in any "Best Young GUNZ" or "Best player without a major" lists going forward. He's the real deal. And maybe he'll finally upgrade from that "scuffed-up" Toyota Camry. Treat yourself, Xander.
Bryson DeChambeau’s latest experiment: Turns out, this PGA Tour star/physics professor wasn’t kidding when he said he planned to take advantage of the new rule allowing the flagstick to be kept in while putting on the green.
And boy, did he take advantage, leading the field at Kapalua in strokes gained: putting. Could that be a coincidence? Sure. Could he also be starting a revolution? More likely. Short game guru Dave Pelz's studies confirm the flagstick is your friend. And as strange as it looks, Bryson's fellow tour pros could eventually look even sillier if they don't follow suit. I know I'm all in, particularly when I've got a couple bucks on the line and my playing partner says, "Don't leave this short." Although, has anyone considered the wrath of potential injuries with groups hitting their approach shots thinking the green is open because the flagstick is in? Oh boy. . .
Cody Blick’s golf clubs: Remember the guy who had his golf clubs stolen before the final round of Q School then went out and shot 63 with a makeshift set to earn his Web.com Tour card? Well, his story added a second happy ending. Sort of.
Yes, Cody got his clubs, including his beloved putter, back for $300 (He paid a woman who paid a homeless man $75 for the set), but he’s unsure if any are in good enough condition for the Web.com Tour season opener this week. In any event, it's an important lesson for all. Keep a close eye on your clubs or they may wind up in a tent under an overpass.
Ho-sung Choi petition: An Arizona PGA instructor/hero started a brilliant—and much-needed—petition to get our boy into this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open that has more than 5,000 signatures currently. It reads in part, "The 'greatest show on grass' NEEDS to have the greatest showman in the game. We are politely asking that you would extend one of your sponsors exemptions to Hosung Choi, so that we can see his greatness up close." You can’t argue with sound logic like that. A reminder of the type of entertainment Ho-sung brings to the table:
Sign. This. NOW.
Rory in final groups: New year, same Rory. From the Masters to the Tour Championship when he blended into the sea of fans following Tiger Woods, McIlroy put himself in final groups six times in 2018 and failed to win on any of those occasions. And he kicked off 2019 in the same fashion. Granted, to beat Xander Schauffele Rory would have needed a Sunday 63. Still, his 72 (the highest score of anyone in the top 20 of the 33-man field) led to a disappointing T-4. Sure, you have to be pretty damn good to have as many "disappointing" high finishes as Rory does, but it's a troubling trend. We love seeing him in contention, though, especially when he's hitting bullets like this:
Lucy Li’s amateur status: The 16-year-old phenom appears front and center in this new Apple Watch commercial while decked out in Nike gear:
I’m not against anyone making money (for the record, Li’s mom says her daughter didn’t get paid for the commercial), but either she should be stripped of her amateur status or the rules need to be changed. Also, it’s crazy that Li is allowed to turn pro whenever she wants and could join the LPGA at 18 (possibly earlier if she petitions), while that Clemson freshman quarterback has to stay in school for two more years. That's just not fair—especially since my Giants have a high pick in this year's NFL Draft.
The new drop rule: On Friday, Bryson (It’s always Bryson with this stuff, isn’t it?) called the change to dropping from knee height instead of shoulder height “a bit ridiculous.” On Saturday, this happened:
The golf gods have a funny sense of humor sometimes. I agree with Bryson again. The change doesn’t make much difference (golfers are still going to wind up having to place the ball a lot of the time) and it doesn’t do much for the “golfers are athletes” argument.
The PGA Tour wraps up the Hawaiian Swing with the Sony Open, AKA the place where there’s a big “W” made by palm trees. Good thing Xander isn’t playing this week or the Waialee grounds crew would be forced to turn it into a big X.
Random tournament fact: Tadd Fujikawa failed to qualify for the event in his attempt to become the first openly gay player to compete in a PGA Tour event. He still holds the distinction of being the youngest player to make a PGA Tour cut in the past 60 years, having played on the weekend just after turning 16 in 2007.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Xander Schauffele will win the 2019 Masters: 30-to-1 odds (Actual odds)
— Xander Schauffele will win any 2019 major: 10-to-1 odds (Also actual odds)
— Xander Schauffele will NOT win a major in 2019: LOCK
Sorry, Xander. After firing off a joking tweet about you winning the Grand Slam, I was challenged to that major bet by someone on Twitter and wound up getting baited into it. So you’re sunk. Now THAT is an actual random prop bet of the week. And yes, both participants took screenshots as proof. Wish me (and Xander) luck.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
OK, so technically, that’s not a photo, but it basically is if you focus on the marshal frozen in calming-down-a-non-existent-crowd mode. What a dedication to duty. It's still not as good as the guy who tried to quiet a moving train at the 2015 U.S. Open, but it's close.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Vijay Singh’s workouts are straight-up stolen from Rocky IV. Incredible.
And here I am thinking I’m a bad, bad man for pledging to do 100 pushups and squats for 40 consecutive days. This dude is turning 56 next month!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Rory McIlroy throwing daggers at Brian Harman and himself:
"There's going to be a few things that are, practicing your drops from your knees. We're saying that Brian Harman has got a big advantage, he can basically place it. Where you got someone like Tony Finau who is dropping it probably from like waist high for me.”
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
I’ve called for a moratorium on Happy Gilmore attempts in the past, but I’ll give Justin Timberlake a pass — especially when he can do this:
Talk about a power draw. Impressive stuff, JT.
THIS WEEK IN PROS ARE JUST LIKE US
Justin Thomas was in a glass case of emotion during Alabama’s national championship beatdown by Clemson:
It’s OK, JT. Your alma mater can’t win every year.
And check out five-time Web.com Tour winner Kyle Thompson, who quit competitive golf after 17 years as a tour pro to take his first “real job” in insurance:
The dude certainly knows how to dress for the office already. And that looks like the same vest I saw on the clearance rack for $30 at J. Crew. Now that I see how good it looks on Kyle, I’m bummed I passed.
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
THIS WEEK IN OTHER TOUR PRO PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
The New Year turned into Proposal SZN on the PGA Tour. First, Morgan Hoffmann, whose career has unfortunately been put on hold due to muscular dystrophy, said his engagement “took 2018 from being the worst, to the absolute best year of my life!”
And then Peter Uihlein popped the question. . . at some sort of zoo?
Hey, it worked. Congrats, guys.
THIS AND THAT
Justin Rose took back the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking from Brooks Koepka despite not playing this week. Brooks added “Math” to his list of entities that don’t give him enough respect. . . . Padraig Harrington was announced as the 2020 European Ryder Cup captain. Let’s just say golf writers everywhere are thrilled with this news. . . . Meanwhile, the USGA’s Mike Davis announced he’s relinquishing his course setup duties at the U.S. Open. Let’s just say golfers aren’t too broken up over this news. . . . And finally, if your toilet has been clogging when you flush buckets of golf balls, this is the toilet for you:
Weird flex, but OK.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Will we see a boom in the flagstick industry?
Is it time to upgrade my toilets?
Is that vest still at J.Crew?