Shane Lowry makes facial-hair history, Brooks Koepka gets frustrated with a slow player, and golf’s top impressionist returns
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we decided to do a Phil Mickelson-inspired 10-day “hard reset” ahead of our own major championship next week. And then we saw how Phil played at Royal Portrush. Mickelson looked good minus 15 pounds, but his plus-eight total was ugly. So ... yeah. ... I don't want to make my golf game any worse before my big trip. ... That’s why I’m not changing my diet. ... That’s my excuse. ... Anyway, there's plenty of content to feast on from a wild week in Northern Ireland. Let's dive in.
Shane Lowry: The second time was better for the affable Irishman when holding a four-shot, 54-hole lead at a major. And thank goodness. Portrush would have turned into a funeral procession. But seriously, what a performance. Fifteen under on that track? In those conditions? To win by six? Wow.
He also made facial-hair history by, according to The Sun, becoming the first bearded golfer to win the Open since Bob Fergurson in 1882.
Bob looks like one tough dude, huh? Now that Shane has opened the door for fellow facial follicle lovers, that's good news for guys like Beef. And somewhere, Old Tom Morris is proud. And Bob. Although, again, he doesn't look like the touchy-feely type. Anyway, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular champion and a more joyous celebration. When asked if the party was going to be big on Sunday night, Lowry laughed and said, “Oh, it’s going to be all week. All week.” And why not? Take it away, Shane!
As you can see, Lowry wore his golf clothes straight to the pub! What a legend.
Brooks Koepka: Just a T-4 at this major? Is Brooks in a slump?! All kidding aside, what a year it was for this guy—in the majors, of course. Koepka failed to keep his streak of four consecutive top-two major finishes alive, but he also became just the fifth player (Jack, Tiger, Rickie, and Jordan) to finish in the top five at all four in one year. And despite getting frustrated to the point of blurting out, “I can’t make a putt!” at one point, Koepka came within a shot of becoming the first player to finish in the top three in all four. The days of not getting his due are over. After this historic campaign, Brooks Koepka is the clear No. 1 in the sport.
Royal Portrush: We often joke that some of the courses in the Open rota blend together (See our handy guide to telling them apart), but that is not a problem at this picturesque place. The views. The variety. And yes, CALAMITY CORNER(!) all lived up to the hype.
More important, our Ryan Herrington reports things went smoothly from a logistics standpoint despite the record crowds. It might not have technically been a “British” Open, but it sure felt like one of the best spots to hold one. So, R&A, is Royal Portrush officially an extra member of the rota or is it bumping someplace (Royal St. George’s, perhaps?) out? Oh, RSG is hosting next year? Maybe next time around then ...
Rory and DJ: It’s hard to imagine these guys have combined to win zero majors in the past three years. That’s three prime years for two of the world’s best players who have played great golf during that stretch. Golf is nuts. And cruel. And time flies—even when you’re not having fun winning majors. Yes, McIlroy gave his home crowd some thrills on Friday, and he handled himself remarkably well during an emotional week, but his major drought is now at five years following a disappointing missed cut at Royal Portrush.
David Cannon/Getty Images
That young kid who had collected four majors at 25 is now 30. Meanwhile, DJ is 35. It’s go-time, guys.
Playing with J.B. Holmes: Or worse, playing with J.B. Holmes on the day he shoots 87. Yep, EIGHTY-SEVEN! Brooks Koepka had the misfortune of being in this position and he didn’t hide his frustration. Kopek looked to a marshal to do something about Holmes’ pace:
And he looked away in disgust when J.B. plumb-bobbed a short putt during his disastrous round.
I believe tour pros deserve to take more time than amateurs because of the stakes they’re playing for and because they’re taking fewer shots. The latter wasn’t the case on Sunday, though, as Holmes barely beat bogey golf, or what my golf buddies call “THE STANDARD.”
Tiger after long layoffs: For a second time in 2019, Woods went from one major to another without playing in between. And for a second time, he missed the cut after doing so. Though his reasoning of saving that surgically repaired back as much as possible makes sense, he might need a different game plan as he goes forward. More troubling is that Tiger said he needed another break following his missed cut after his latest break: “I just want to go home.” That being said, I’m not writing the obituary to his career like others were after his first round. As he’s said all along since his comeback, he’s going to have weeks where he doesn’t have it physically. And regardless, it’s been a great season. No offense to Shane Lowry, but Tiger Woods is the real Champion Golfer of the Year.
Long layoffs between majors: It’s pretty crazy that golf’s four biggest events are contested within a four-month window and that nearly three quarters of the year is major-less. Especially when you compare it to tennis, which begins with the Australian Open in January and ends with the U.S. Open in September. HOWEVAH, people going crazy about the “EXTRA-LONG LAYOFF” because of the PGA Tour’s new schedule need to calm down. It’s essentially an extra two to three weeks. The wait after the final major to the Masters has always been long. And it has always sucked. Hang in there, everyone.
Most of the world’s best golfers are back in action at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, AKA that event that kind of already existed as the FedEx St. Jude Classic, but is now a WGC “invitational" instead of the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone. It’s a quick turnaround for golfers coming back from the Open, but battling through a little jet lag seems worth it when playing for a $12 million purse. Those walking in Memphis this week, though, will be sweating through their polos—and pants. Who can forget Robert Garrigus’ epic swamp ass from 2010?
Random tournament fact: Daniel Berger has won both of his two PGA Tour titles in this event, but he’s playing in this week’s opposite-field event, the Barracuda Championship, instead. Golf is hard, folks.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Brooks & J.B. will play a 2020 Masters practice round together: 1 Million-to-1 odds
— Brooks will win the 2020 Masters: 10-to-1 odds (Actual odds, favorite)
— Royal Portrush will host another Open: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Very funny, Shane, but I shudder to ask. . . what part of your body is that hair coming from?
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Shane Lowry’s grandma might have given the greatest post-round interview in Open Championship history:
Good stuff, granny. Have another brandy to celebrate—from the claret jug.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (NOT INVOLVING THE LOWRY CLAN)
Impressionist Conor Moore is back and he’s as good as ever in this Open Championship recap.
The line delivered as Lowry about staying out late drinking the night before is classic. And Conor got to drink from the claret jug!
Pretty cool. Also, it looks like Kevin Kisner and Jason Kokrak had a good time at Lowry’s victory party as well.
FAILS OF THE WEEK
Poor Justin Harding faced a fried-egg lie from a pot bunker. It did not turn out well.
And J.T. Poston took the lead after Day 1 of the Barbasol Championship ... but his name was spelled wrong in the paper:
Even worse? Poston wound up only finishing T-29 for the week.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Again, the honor goes to Granny Lowry when asked about watching the drama during the final round at Royal Portrush:
"Oh, terrible. Emotional now, it was. I hadn't slept last night. I hadn't drank a brandy since 2009, and I drank two yesterday—it's nearly killing me.”
Good thing it never really got close on Sunday.
THIS WEEK IN PHIL BEING PHIL
As mentioned, Phil’s game wasn’t back at Royal Portrush, but at least the Phireside with Phil videos were! This time, Zach Johnson made his first guest appearance:
I’m just amazed Phil hasn’t started referring to himself as Philkipedia yet.
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY BROOKS KOEPKA-JENA SIMS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Not surprisingly, Jena doesn’t post as many photos with Brooks when her man isn’t winning or almost winning. But she made sure to let everyone know their relationship is as solid as Koepka’s grasp on the the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.
THIS AND THAT
Congrats to Jim Herman on winning his second PGA Tour title at the Barbasol Championship. Herman had missed 16 of his 19 cuts this season entering this week with a T-43 as his best finish. Golf! ... Congrats to Preston Summerhays, who knocked off phenom Akshay Bhatia and went on to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. This will NOT be the last we hear of this young stud. ... Congrats to Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee for qualifying for the Senior Open Championship for the second consecutive year. We will definitely be hearing more from him. ... And finally, congrats to Steve (Westside) Hennessey and his lovely bride, Katie, for getting married over the weekend:
These two New Jersey lovebirds tied the knot in their home state and it was beautiful to see it. My ears, however, are still ringing from all the house music. Jersey, am I right?
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Which Open champ drank the most from the claret jug?
Are we ever going to see another slow-play penalty in a major?
What’s the best wedding song? (Other than “Shout,” obviously.)