The Grind

A former nightclub bouncer’s PGA Tour breakthrough, a bar owner’s brutal gambling loss and the feel-good golf moment of the year

February 27, 2024

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we apologize on behalf of all of Wake Forest for probably ruining rushing the court for future generations of college basketball fans. Although outlawing the practice might be for the best considering how scary it was the one time I did it as an undergrad when we beat Duke. I truly feared being trampled and one of my buddies even lost a shoe. What does any of this have to do with golf? Well, we’ve seen fans getting closer and closer to the 18th green at majors in recent years. Remember Kiawah in 2021?

Brooks Koepka certainly wasn’t too thrilled about it. But the losers never are. Which brings me back to the fact that Wake beat Duke. In men’s basketball. Woo! It’s going to be a great week, people! Anyway, here’s what else has us talking.

WE’RE BUYING

Jake Knapp: By now you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s still incredible that this late-blooming, long-bombing player was working as a nightclub bouncer only two years ago. Especially because he’s only listed at 5-11, 160 pounds. But after entering the week with fewer than 1,000 Twitter followers and not having a Wikipedia page, now he’s a PGA Tour winner in only his ninth career start. He even got the full LPGA treatment from his friends!

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Hector Vivas

Fun! And all this despite the fact that, according to stats guru Justin Ray, he’s the only PGA Tour winner to hit less than three fairways during the final round of a win.

But in the end, Jake got the job done. After, he thanked his late grandfather, Gordon Bowley, whose initials he has tattooed on his left arm.

And as someone with a “Papa” who got me into golf, it may have gotten a bit dusty in here on Sunday evening. Anyway, Jake has a nice gig locked up for at least another two years with the win, meaning those bouncing days are long gone. And before he hits the big three-oh in May, he’ll get to play in the Masters. If Augusta National was looking to hire a bit of extra security for that week, they’ve got their man.

Ronald Rugumayo: Knapp had the biggest win of the week, but no one had a bigger moment than Rugumayo, who became the first Ugandan to make the cut in a DP World Tour event at the Magical Kenya Open.

That’s got to be the feel-good moment of the year in golf, right? And from another angle it’s even better.

Just awesome stuff right there. The 31-year-old golfer known as “Mayo” didn’t fare quite as well over the weekend, but nothing could have mattered less. The dude is a national hero (he made a hole-in-one in last year's event) and an inspiration to golfers all over the world. And we’re guessing that won’t be the last time he plays the weekend in a big event.

Patty Tavatanakit: The 2021 ANA Inspiration champ is finally back in the LPGA winner’s circle after holding on at the Honda LPGA Thailand. "I'm honestly speechless right now," Tavatanakit said after. "I was so nervous today. I don't know if I showed it a little bit, but playing in front of the fans, I mean, everyone came out and they supported me. It gave me a little bit of an extra boost."

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Thananuwat Srirasant

But the talented 24-year-old also won last week’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International on the Ladies European Tour. By seven shots. So, yeah, you could say she’s back.

The Match: Speaking of being back, Capital One’s The Match was back for a ninth edition and it was arguably the best one yet. Sue me for sounding like a company man (Golf Digest was involved as was our parent company, WBD), but I’m buying millions for charity, I'm buying night golf, I’m buying The Park and I’m sure as heck buying Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and the rest of the TNT crew, including our electric Loop podcast guest from last week, Paul “Biz” Bissonnette.

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Cliff Hawkins

I’m also buying Rory McIlroy’s winning closest-to-the-pin shot, Lexi Thompson’s long eagle make, Max Homa’s on-course personality, and Rose Zhang for, well, just being Rose Zhang. She was going to be back at Stanford for a 9 a.m. class the next day! What a grinder! Anyway, check out Christopher Powers’ great roundup of all the action.

WE’RE SELLING

The Match’s finishing time: OK, to prove that I’m not a total shill, my one complaint is that it went way past my bedtime, not finishing until just after 10:30 p.m. ET. Even though they only played 12 holes (plus that closest-to-the-hole tiebreaker). Guys—and gals—all the money is going to charity no matter what. Play faster! Actually, good job by Max Homa, whose speedy play included nearly holing a wedge shot despite being mid-conversation with Christina Kim. Anyway, let’s find a way to keep it in that 7-10 window next time, please.

This insane Carl Yuan bet: A Binghamton area bar owner wagered $6,575(!) on Carl Yuan to win the Mexico Open after a pre-tournament tweet backfired on him. Obviously, that bet did not go well. Although, he had a chance entering the weekend and still seemed to enjoy the experience:

He just might have to raise his Happy Hour prices. Anyway, shake it off, you’ll get 'em next time. And by next time, we mean this week:

Good luck to that guy—and Keith Mitchell.

Being charged at by a large gator: We’ve seen some crazy viral videos through the years, but this might be the wildest one involving wildlife:

Wow. That might be enough to keep me from playing golf in Florida ever again.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour heads to PGA National for the Cognizant Classic, AKA that event that used to be called the Honda Classic, AKA that event with the BEAR TRAP. Also, the LPGA is in Singapore and LIV is in Saudi Arabia for the LIV Golf Jeddah event, AKA AK’s big return, AKA "THE DANCE OF REDEMPTION" as teased by this very dramatic promo video:

Yep, after a dozen years, Anthony Kim is really back, folks. Pretty wild.

Random tournament fact: Keith Mitchell won his lone career PGA Tour title here in 2019, beating Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler by a stroke. Impressive. OK, I might join that bar owner and toss a few bucks on Keith as well.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Anthony Kim will win this week: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds

—Anthony Kim will win again: 100-to-1 odds

—Anthony Kim will look cool no matter what happens: LOCK

TWEET OF THE WEEK

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (ON-COURSE DIVISION)

Mackenzie Hughes decided to hit this cartpath shot without his shoes on:

Even Phil Mickelson would be impressed by that kind of showmanship.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (KINDA ON-COURSE DIVISION)

This Florida man uses a t-shirt cannon to launch Fireball and candy to golfers passing by:

OK, maybe I will play golf in Florida again.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (OFF-COURSE DIVISION)

Taking a page from Barstool’s Jersey Jerry, Si Woo Kim did his own hole-in-one simulator challenge on Pebble Beach’s iconic seventh hole—and needed only 69 tries to get the job done.

These guys are good.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Michael Jordan didn’t attend the jersey retirement ceremony of fellow Chicago sports legend Chris Chelios because of a death in his family, so instead he filmed a congratulatory message. But as many instantly noted, that video was taken … at a golf course.

Hmm. At least he was wearing black, right?

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Jake Knapp’s girlfriend flew to Mexico from Canada to watch his final round. And Jake took a quick break to go say hi when he saw her:

Aww. Of course, they got to spend much more time together after he tapped in for the win:

Great stuff. They both handled themselves like seasoned vets in the situation. But nothing topped the FaceTime call Jake made to his family in which his mother said she needed three margaritas (an appropriate Mexico Open drink choice!) to get through watching that final round:

I’m buying the entire Knapp family. Great story.

QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK

Charles Barkley on the importance of youth sports: “I was becoming a crook. Basketball was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Ernie Johnson: “And now you’re stealing from TNT.”

Woo! Classic. Love those guys.

THIS AND THAT

Jon Rahm says he didn’t hear back from Tiger Woods after texting him when he signed with LIV Golf. Not saying that’s right or wrong, but nothing has ever been more predictable. … Speaking of Tiger, Jake Knapp has a golf ball (tossed to him as an 11-year-old by caddie Steve Williams) from Tiger’s famed 9-and-8 win against Stephen Ames at the 2006 WGC Match Play. Talk about an amazing keepsake. … And, finally, my continued recovery from knee surgery has given me more time to watch movies, and I took advantage this past week by watching a couple of instant classics in “Oppenheimer” and “The Holdovers.”

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I highly recommend both. They were almost as good as watching Wake beat Duke. Almost.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

Which movie will win best picture at the Oscars?

Which PGA Tour star is the biggest movie buff?

What happened to my buddy's shoe?