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The Grind

Nick Dunlap’s (latest) historic win, Tiger Woods’ (likely) new brand and Aaron Rodgers’ 'signature' hole-in-one

January 23, 2024

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we’re not sure what Nick Dunlap is waiting for when it comes to turning pro. Forget about the money, I would have left school early just to avoid a few final exams and papers. That being said, I realize Young Nick’s college experience is a bit different than mine. At 6-foot-3, he’s both literally and figuratively a big man on campus at Alabama. And with a fellow Nick (Saban) recently retiring, his star will shine even brighter in Tuscaloosa.

Also unlike me—something I’ve been reminded of by my parents throughout the years—Nick is a finance major. And with all the money that will be headed his way in the future, that kind of a degree could actually come in handy. In any event, let’s talk about this history-making non-history major and everything else happening in the world of golf.

WE’RE BUYING

Nick Dunlap: Last August, when he became the only golfer other than Tiger Woods to win both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur, we knew big things were on the way, but this is ridiculous. Dunlap did something at the American Express that even Tiger never did, becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson in 1991.

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Orlando Ramirez

What a stud. And how cool was the 20-year-old under pressure? The guy was just chatting it up with Justin Thomas on the final hole:

Of course, it didn’t hurt that JT is a fellow Bama guy, not to mention the third in their group, Sam Burns, is a big SEC football guy from LSU. What a comfortable pairing! But sometimes things line up in a funny way for a reason. And Dunlap also happened to win on Jack Nicklaus’ birthday. Is it possible we just witnessed the arrival of the game’s next all-time great? And will this guy turn pro and take advantage of that two-year PGA Tour winner’s exemption? We’ll have to wait for answers to those questions, but in the meantime, we’re pretty sure he won’t be doing much school work this week.

Good for you, Nick. You earned plenty of extra credit in my book—even if you didn’t earn any cash.

Rory McIlroy: A week after a brutal loss, Rory redeemed himself in Dubai by winning the Hero Dubai Desert Classic for the fourth time in his illustrious career. I got on McIlroy a bit for blowing last week’s tournament, but it was just a bit of tough love. Sure, the guy lets a lot of trophies slip away, but he also wins a lot, and it’s a testament to the fact that he always seems to be in contention on Sunday. To that point, look at Rory’s recent run of results:

That’s downright Scottie Scheffler-esque. Kidding, Rory. It’s McIlroy-esque, too. Unfortunately for Rory at this point in his career, it’s all about the majors. Kinda like how Josh Allen could break every NFL record, but if he can’t beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter. Stinks, but that’s the way it is for great athletes sometimes.

Lydia Ko: Remember this former phenom who used to win on the LPGA as an amateur? Well, she got back in the winner’s circle after a 14-month drought at the HGV Tournament of Champions.

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Julio Aguilar

She’s also probably wondering what the big deal is about Nick Dunlap. After all, Ko had 14 LPGA Tour titles, including two majors by the time she was 20. Anyway, Ko now has 20 career LPGA victories and is now just one point away from earning Hall-of-Fame status.

Tiger Woods’ new brand: It looks like that next “chapter” Tiger promised in that Nike farewell announcement will be a brand-new brand. Introducing SUNDAY RED, a lifestyle brand TaylorMade has applied for:

Love the name and like the logo. I’d just feel even better about this if it were prime Tiger and I think they’re going to be fighting an uphill battle in a brutal apparel space. But good luck, guys! And, by the way, I’m still a medium. Barely.

WE’RE SELLING

Getting snubbed by your own tour: Such was the case for Michael Kim, who was riding high off a T-6 at the American Express before perusing the pre-tournament notes for the Farmers Insurance Open and seeing the PGA Tour completely forgot this was his home event:

That's rougher than when the DP World Tour forgot to wish Ian Poulter a happy birthday. Of course, he’ll live. And as a testament to the social media juice he now possesses—more on that from our Tod Leonard—the mistake was quickly fixed:

Talk about the power of the pen. Well, the power of the tweet.

Crashing on a golf course: Crashing a car anywhere sucks, but a woman had a particularly crazy one in California when she drove through a stop sign in the fog and launched her car onto the eighth hole of the Johnny Miller-designed Eagle Springs Golf Club. Fortunately, she got out relatively unscathed, but she received some insult to (minor) injury from the California Highway Patrol in Fresno with this golf joke-riddled announcement:

Ouch.

This guy’s ace total: I’m not saying I don’t believe this “Wheel of Fortune” contestant named Dan that he has 14 career holes-in-one. But if that’s actually true—while hard-working golfers like myself remain at none—it’s disgusting. Anyway, here’s the clip:

It’s one thing for someone like Luke Donald, who made his own hole-in-one last week, to have 19 aces, but this random dude? And who casually refers to themselves as a “stick”? This guy is the cockiest game-show contestant since the legendary John Carpenter.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour remains in California for the Farmers Insurance Open (AKA that event where Tiger used to start his season) at Torrey Pines (AKA that place where Tiger used to dominate). It used to be local legend Phil Mickelson’s playground as well, but, well, you know. And we thought Nick Dunlap was going to tee it up (he had a sponsor's exemption into this tournament as well), but he decided to take some time after his big week. Still, it’s a strong field. And as we talked about on this week’s The Loop podcast with DFS specialist Andy Lack, say what you want about Torrey Pines from an architectural aspect, but it usually produces a great leaderboard. Fingers crossed.

Random tournament fact: More of a random season fact here, but the first three winners of 2024 have had odds of 200-to-1, 500-to-1 and 450-to-1. This has to be the craziest stretch of winners in PGA Tour history.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Nick Dunlap will ever be 450-to-1 odds again: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds

—San Diego-local Xander Schauffele will win this week: 9-to-1 odds

—Not even Xander would bet on Xander at 9-to-1 odds: LOCK

PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK

Rory and parents recreated their winning photo in Dubai from 15 years ago when McIlroy was just 19:

Aww. They grow up so fast, huh?

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Ben An dominates this category with a couple gems.

Well played, Ben.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK

Adam Schenk hit a golf ball that landed in the cup of a spectator:

The odds of that happening are almost as high as having those three winners to start the year. Almost.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Congrats to Jeff McNeil for winning the pro-am portion of the HGV Tournament of Champions:

That’s the biggest win by the Mets in nearly a decade! And congrats as well to Aaron Rodgers, for not only making a hole-in-one, but doing it at Shadow Creek:

I’d call that a big moment for the Jets, but Rodgers has spent all of four plays on their team. And it’s been a while since the QB has authored a signature win, but that is one serious signature ace at Shadow Creek’s stunning 17th. As we’ve seen before during Capital One’s The Match, this guy has a knack for doing special things on Vegas par 3s.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Check out the Alabama team bus going bonkers watching Nick Dunlap’s winning putt:

OK, so Dunlap’s decision is tougher than it seems when you factor in teammates like that.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF MOTIVATION

Kansas City native Tom Watson took a shot at Travis Kelce (and kind of at Taylor Swift) before Sunday’s big Chiefs game:

And Kelce delivered with five catches, including two TDs. Maybe the U.S. should make this guy the Ryder Cup captain again! Oh, right. Never mind.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"A golf swing is a very high maintenance thing. It’s like a yacht. It’s a nice thing to have, but it’s very high maintenance.” —RIP Jack Burke Jr., the legendary player and teacher, who passed away last week at 100.

THIS AND THAT

Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell's first win as Smash teammates came on the racetrack with their horse Givemefive:

Seems like they're investing that LIV money well. … Congrats to Steven Alker on his eighth career PGA Tour Champions victory. Incredibly, he never even had a top 10 on the PGA Tour. … Nick Dunlap jumped a record 4,061 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking up to No. 68 with his first career PGA Tour top 10 and win. Now that’s what I call a rising sophomore. … Congrats to Christian Bezuidenhout on finishing runner-up, but earning that first-place check for $1.5 million thanks to Nick’s amateur status. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. … And, finally, here’s my latest artistic masterpiece, which prompted a “Daaaaad, more golf?” from my 5-year-old:

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Yes, that's a unicorn. And, yes, it has two "cutie" marks instead of the usual one. Deal with it.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

Will Rory still be winning in Dubai in another 15 years?

When will Nick Dunlap win on tour again?

When will I be able to play golf again?