Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we turned another year older while still in search of that elusive first hole-in-one. This year’s birthday was particularly cruel with freezing rain all day, no Tiger Woods at Bay Hill to watch, and daylight savings costing me an hour of
partying sleep. On top of that, I also found out about the most annoying hole-in-one story yet. Introducing Paula, who apparently dribbled a driver into the cup from 118 yards out during her fifth round ever:
As if it wasn’t deflating enough to learn Kid Rock beat me to an ace the week before, nine, nine, ONE, nine, nine?! Are you kidding me?! Freaking Paula. Anyway, the freezing rain and snow is hopefully past, and we’ve now entered THE SEASON OF CHAMPIONSHIPS on the PGA Tour so there’s plenty to be excited about. Let’s focus on that and literally anything else other than this topic.
Francesco Molinari: The champion golfer of the year’s Sunday 64 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned Bay Hill into Bore Hill for the final two hours of TV coverage. You’d be hard-pressed, however, to find a more exciting golf call than the play-by-play provided by GOLFTV’s Italian broadcast:
Although, that reminded me just how little I retained from taking Italian in high school and college. That’s a lot of time that could have been spent playing FIFA and Madden instead. Anyway, Molinari made some history in that he now has an Arnie cardigan to go with a claret jug. He’s also the first PGA Tour player to sink the winning putt with the flagstick in. This, despite his brother doing tests that show it’s a bad strategy. “[Edoardo]’s probably going to tell me off when I speak to him later,” Francesco said following his win. Go easy on him, Edoardo. Little bro is up to No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Michelle Wie’s engagement: After recently making her relationship with Jonnie West, the son of NBA legend Jerry West, Instagram official, the two took things to the next level over the weekend:
We’re sure Nike won’t mind her showing off those fresh kicks and it looks like the lovely couple already has their wedding hashtag figured out. Those can be tricky, so it’s great to get that out of the way early. But seriously, it’s been a rough, injury-plagued past year on the course for the LPGA star, so we’re happy to see her so happy in her personal life.
Dan Jenkins: The sports world lost one of its all-time great storytellers in Jenkins, who spent his last three decades-plus at Golf Digest. The legendary sportswriter covered an incredible 232 major championships in his illustrious career, and I was fortunate enough to overlap with him on a few:
If you haven’t done so yet, please read Tom Callahan’s piece for us on this media giant. And check out this week's podcast in which Golf Digest executive editor Mike O'Malley talks about what it was like to work as Dan's editor since 1996. Jenkins will be missed at the Masters next month, but I’ll be sure to drink a few Coca-Colas in his honor.
Rory McIlroy on Sundays: Or should we say, Rory Neutralroy? After grabbing a share of the lead just three holes into the final round, McIlroy shot 72 and fell back to T-6. On one hand, it marked the fifth consecutive top-six finish for McIlroy. On the other, it was the ninth straight time he’s failed to win despite playing in the final group.
Sure, Rory's been beat by some serious players shooting some serious rounds (Molinari, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schaffele, etc.), but still, this is a bad—and surprising—trend for someone who is tracking to be one of the best golfers ever. The positives, of course, are that he never has a bad week or a particularly bad round, but again, on Sundays, he’s just kind of stuck. Hence, Rory Neutralroy. And yes, I’m way more proud of coming up with that nickname than I should be.
Phil’s fence attempt: Look, I’m as big a fan of the “Phil being Phil” stuff as anyone, but this was just absurd:
Although, not as absurd as Mickelson claiming after the round he thought he was going to hit the shot onto the green. I laughed out loud at that one. Speaking of the absurd. . .
Trump’s latest club championship: As reported by Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger, Donald Trump managed to win a club championship that he didn’t even compete in by challenging the actual winner to a nine-hole match. That would be like me challenging Trump to a local run-off for the Presidency after he won the general election.
Putting politics aside, this is absolutely bonkers.
As mentioned before, THE SEASON OF CHAMPIONSHIPS is here and it starts with the Players, AKA the event that is still not a major despite a new 24-karat gold trophy and a new dramatic theme song:
It’s not bad, but it’s not Yanni’s "In Celebration of Man." Then again, what is?
Random tournament fact: After seven straight years of being at TPC Sawgrass, which included 35 consecutive nights eating at the Ponte Vedra Beach Chili’s (RIP THE STREAK), I will once again miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event, this time for my daughter’s first birthday. After seeing the following forecast for the tournament now that it’s back in March, I’m not as disappointed. . .
Is this the Players or the British Open? Hope everyone covering this year’s event brought some extra layers.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— This is the year I’ll finally make a hole-in-one: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
— I can convince my wife to celebrate our daughter’s birthday at Chili's: 100-to-1 odds
— The winner won't care it's not a major when he gets that record $2.25M check: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
This one made some waves due to Jason Day WDing after six holes the day before with a bad back, but taking vicious cuts at a golf ball isn’t the same as waiting in lines. And no matter your condition, how could you take your family to Orlando and NOT go to Disney World? Besides, Ellie, not Jason, was doing the heavy lifting. Literally.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Skratch TV pulled off a fantastic prank by telling regular golfers at TPC Sawgrass they wouldn’t be allowed to play the 17th hole. Check it out:
“I went to see Hall & Oates and Oates didn’t show up, so I know exactly what you’re going through.” So good! Seriously, though, I give these golfers credit for not flipping out even more after plunking down $400. My golf trip crew wouldn’t have had as much restraint.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
J.J. Watt looks like he’s enjoying the NFL off-season:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I guess I've become a lot more comfortable with the fact that I'm going to fail more times than I succeed at that certain, whatever, conquest or whatever you want to call it. So I've become comfortable with the fact I've tried four times, I've failed, but Abraham Lincoln lost the first 13 elections he was ever in. He wound up being the President of the United States. So I still got a bit of time." — Rory McIlroy, four-time major champ and part-time U.S. history buff.
THIS WEEK IN "PROS ARE JUST LIKE US!"
Another week away from playing competitive golf due to injury, led to Luke Donald being dragged to the mall. Apparently, it’s not his happy place. Luke’s wife, Diane, filmed the former World No. 1 on his way out of the Boca Raton Town Center and if you squint, he looks like Tim Robbins at the end of Shawshank Redemption:
C’mon, Luke, going to the mall isn’t that bad. Especially, if the food court has a spot that serves bourbon chicken. That might be the GOAT chicken dish.
THIS WEEK IN PGA TOUR PRO-WAGS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION (AND ATHLETICISM)
Check out Jimmy Walker’s wife, Erin, successfully navigating the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass:
Nice shot, Erin. I, too, conquered the island green the one time I played it with a 9-iron and two putts. What’s the big deal, everyone?
THIS AND THAT
The PGA Tour renamed its Rookie of the Year Award the Arnold Palmer Award. It’s a cool gesture, but how was there not already an award named after The King? . . . Speaking of names, this week's European Tour event is called the Magical Kenya Open. For real. This is the best tournament name in golf history. . . . Fourteen-year-old Alexa Pano was a 54-hole co-leader at the Symetra Tour’s season opener before finishing T-8. Just a guess, but we’ll see her name on a few more leader boards down the road. . . . And finally, Jeff Maggert wound up one shot out of a playoff Kirk Triplett won at the Hoag Classic on the PGA Tour Champions despite five-putting (yes, five-putting) from inside 10 feet in the first round:
Again, he lost by one shot. That has has to hurt. That also has to be the most chill anyone has ever been after five-putting from inside of 10 feet.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
How many words did Dan Jenkins type in his career?
How much would Sunday’s leader pay for Erin Walker’s shot?
Does anyone want to go to Chili's with me this week?