Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we wish we were good enough at golf to have our daughter run onto the 18th green and celebrate a victory. Or good enough at something. Anything. Seriously, how cute is Sophia Na? And golf fans are suddenly getting to see her a lot as Kevin Na has now won three times in 30 starts after just one victory in his first 369 PGA Tour appearances. Sophia Na is the new Dash Day:
And Kevin Na, judging by Golf Twitter on Sunday evening, is the new toast of the tour. What a turnaround for a guy who could barely pull the club back a few years ago and who got heckled for his slow play. But start winning, showing emotion, and the fans will rush to your side. And yeah, having a cute little girl in front of TV cameras doesn’t hurt. In any event, here’s what else has us talking this week:
Kevin Na: Paging U.S. Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods: Only Brooks Koepka has won more trophies since last July than this guy. Heck, he’s won three times since Jordan Spieth’s last victory. And he does stuff like this. To extend a playoff.
Absolutely electric. He got two full strides in before the ball dropped! On a must-make putt!
Incredible, although not quite as incredible as Kevin’s putting itself while picking up a fourth PGA Tour title at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Na broke a PGA Tour record by making 558 feet and 11 inches worth of putts during four rounds at TPC Summerlin while gaining more than 14 strokes on the field on the greens alone. The dude can flat out roll it. And he’s fun to watch. Again, paging captain Woods. . .
Jon Rahm: The Spaniard continued his hot play as well by successfully defending his Spanish Open title on the European Tour. That’s already Rahm’s eighth worldwide victory since turning pro a little more than three years ago, but just as impressive has been his consistency in contending. According to Official World Ranking Guru Nosferatu, Rahm’s 48.9-percent clip of finishing in the top 10 in worldwide events is No. 2 since 1986 (when the OWGR was created), behind only Tiger Woods (of course) 57.5 percent.
With his latest win, Rahm crept up to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That's 20 spots ahead of Kevin Na. For now.
2020 Players coverage: For the first time ever, golf fans will be able to watch every shot from an entire tournament LIVE at next year’s Players Championship.
This is awesome. But even better? The PGA Tour hopes to eventually implement this for all tournaments. And fans get to choose who they want to watch and when. Finally, I’ll be able to watch every Bill Haas shot from a tournament! Well, if my Wake Forest classmate ever qualifies for the Players again. Sigh. But yeah, on the bright side, well done, PGA Tour.
Cardi B’s new album: Solely because of what the rapper plans on naming it: Tiger Woods. Yep, Tiger Woods. Why? "I’m going to name my album, I think, Tiger Woods, because, remember when everybody was talking sh-- on Tiger Woods […] and then he f---ing came and won that green jacket? That’s what I’m going to name my album.” Well said, Queen B!
Wait, Queen B is different than Cardi B? I’m so confused. But I dig the sentiment. Tiger’s fifth Masters victory earlier this year was truly inspiring. Here, let’s watch it again just for the heck of it:
Oh, and Tiger’s kids are pretty darn cute, too. Imagine them hanging out with Sophia Na AND Dash Day at Royal Melbourne? Totes adorbs.
Kevin Na’s ball-striking: Kevin came up solid in this department in the playoff, but 15th Club’s Justin Ray noted Na is the first player since Bill Haas (Billy!) at the 2011 Tour Championship to win despite posting a negative strokes gained/tee-to-green number. And in the strokes-gained era, he is the only player to win a full-field event while losing strokes to the field in that area. Good thing his putter was hot. Historically hot. And if captain Woods is still reading, his ball-striking is usually better. Pick this man! Speaking of potential Presidents Cup captain's picks. . .
Tony Finau’s putting grip: Many tour pros have found success switching to the claw grip. Tony Finau is not one of those tour pros. After making the switch in May at Colonial, Finau found immediate success. However, in the nine PGA Tour events he has played since, Finau has lost strokes to the field with his putting in eight of them, including at TPC Summerlin, where he ranked 73rd out of 76 players who made the cut. And yet he racked up yet another top 10 thanks in large part to a Saturday 62, the lowest score shot on tour with a negative strokes gained/putting. Tony, it’s time to try something else on the greens. Maybe ask Kevin for a tip.
Pro-am DQ: Crazy story from the Symetra Tour as 20-year-old Mind Muangkhumsakul was disqualified from the Tour Championship for missing her Wednesday pro-am tee time after thinking her tee time was at 9 instead of 8. DQing her from the event wasn’t quite Bio Kim harsh, but still, that’s tough—especially since she entered the tournament at a precarious No. 10 in the season-long standings with the top 10 earning LPGA Tour cards.
Fortunately for her, no one passed her over the weekend so golf fans will see her in the big leagues next year. Also, smart move to stick around.
Waking up in Vegas: As Brooks Koepka and Jena Sims found out, there are worse places to miss the cut than Las Vegas:
But as Max Homa learned—and as the classic Katy Perry song goes (Yeah, I said classic)—there’s absolutely no place worse when it comes to waking up—especially on a travel day.
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for the Houston Open, AKA that event that always used to be played the week before the Masters. Now in the fall, it’s a tune-up for the upcoming Asian Swing and, well, there’s just one top-40 player in the field. Sorry, Houston Open, but the Met Open might have a better field.
Random tournament fact: Ian Poulter is the defending champ thanks to a 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that got him into a playoff he wound up winning over Beau Hossler. But even Ian isn’t in the field this week, opting to play in the European Tour’s Italian Open instead. Again, sorry, Houston Open.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Mind Muangkhumsakul will miss a pro-am tee time again: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
—Henrik Stenson will win the Houston Open: 10-to-1 odds (Actual odds, favorite.)
—A Kevin Na-Patrick Reed pairing would drive the Internationals crazy: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
How could it involve anyone other than Sophia?
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods and Jimmy Fallon dug for “buried treasure” in a bunker at Liberty National during Tiger’s newest charity event, the Nexus Cup. The results were hysterical, especially Tiger’s, “It’s Jersey, it’s probably a body” line:
Also, kudos to Fallon for getting Tiger to go along with something silly like that. Love to see it. And love to see Tiger looking so spry!
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (NON-TIGER DIVISION)
Next year’s Ryder Cup captains, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington, faced off in a 14-club challenge and an axe-throwing contest. Yep, an axe-throwing contest. Check it out:
That would be one heckuva tiebreaker if the matches wind up tied.
(ARCHIVE) VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
As good as Kevin Na’s walk-in putts are, this no-look walk-away putt from Johnny Miller at the 1984 Shriners might be even better:
What a badass.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I think I had a second caddie out there, and I know he’s watching in heaven, just so proud of me.” —Cheyenne Knight, dedicating her first LPGA victory to her brother, Brandon, who died in a car crash 10 years ago. Brandon’s high school football number was 33 and little sister shot a pair of those on Sunday to claim the Volunteers of America Classic and keep her tour card for next season. Way to go, Cheyenne.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Before Las Vegas owned Max Homa, he continued to own Twitter trolls:
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
Congrats to Jimmy Buffett on making a . . . hole-in-one?
Our skepticism comes from the fact that he’s clearly posing on an artificial green. But hey, if he can sleep at night counting that, good for him. Actually, I’m pretty sure he sleeps well. The guy made millions singing about margaritas. What a life.
THIS WEEK IN PHIL BEING PHIL
We’ve focused a lot lately on Mickelson’s social media prowess and rightly so. But this week he got back to doing what he does best: putting on a show. On Friday, Phil authored this remarkable recovery shot from a gravel lie:
And on Saturday, he used driver to escape a bush:
This freaking guy. Also, how do you not have a camera on Phil Mickelson at all times? Bad job, PGA Tour/Golf Channel. When the tour starts showing every shot at tournaments, they should have an entire crew just following Phil.
THIS AND THAT
You can read an excerpt of Kevin Robbins' new Payne Stewart book, "The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever" here. You can also listen to our interview with Kevin on this week's Golf Digest Podcast here:
I can't believe it's been 20 years since Stewart's tragic crash. . . . Kevin Na’s caddie, Kenny Harms, wore a “Free Bio Kim” hat during the Shriners. Judging by Na’s win, it seems we know what side of the three-year suspension the golf gods are on. . . . Congrats to Mary Anne (Widman) Levins on being inducted into the New York State Golf Association Hall of Fame over the weekend. Mary Anne is the mother of Golf Digest co-worker Keely Levins, who introduced her at the ceremony. And now you see why I always want to be on Keely’s team at the annual company-wide Seitz Cup matches. . . . And finally, as a soda lover and connoisseur, I decided to give the limited-edition Coca-Cola Cinnamon a try:
Surprisingly, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Will there be axe-throwing in the U.S. team room at Whistling Straits?
Has Cardi B ran that album title by her record label?
Does Tiger Woods even know who Cardi B is?