Welcome to another edition of The Grind where we love when a great story writes itself. And over the weekend, there was plenty of that happening. You had a guy overcoming tragedy to win on the PGA Tour for the first time. A guy overcoming a rat poison accident as a toddler to win on the European Tour for the first time. And an older guy finally overcoming decades of mental—and probably rough-induced physical—scar tissue to win a USGA event for the first time.
OK, so the last example wasn’t quite as difficult, especially since the grass on Notre Dame's football field is taller (in particular, for that famed 1993 game against Florida State) than the grass on the university's golf course. But you get the point. There's a lot to talk about.
Nate Lashley: After an entire weekend of hearing Jim Nantz and everyone else re-tell this guy’s heartbreaking story, I won’t waste your time with the details. On a serious note, this guy has overcome arguably more tragedy than any golfer in history so it was great to see someone who was flipping real estate a few years ago winning a $1.3 million check at a golf tournament sponsored by a mortgage company.
On a less serious note, if he and his girlfriend wind up getting married, her name would be Ashley Lashley. I wish them the best, but that’s definitely something that needs to be considered before they take the next step. And what is up with this photo?
Steve Stricker: If people thought Pebble Beach played too easy for the U.S. Open, where was all the outrage over the low numbers at Notre Dame’s golf course? This wasn’t your father’s U.S. Senior Open. Regardless, the Strick Show put on a championship show that would impress even Rudy. And then he joined the Golf Digest Podcast to talk about it all. The 52-year-old opened with 62 and went wire-to-wire, breaking basically every scoring record in tournament history. I haven’t seen such abuse of seniors since Ben Stiller’s character in Happy Gilmore. The win gives Stricker a second PGA Tour Champions major in the past two months and in both instances, he won by six shots. Watch out, Bernhard Langer. There’s a new Senior Sheriff in town. And he's, well, probably the nicest guy in golf.
The Pine Valley pro shop: Well, at least, that’s what J.R. Smith did. After checking the famed course off his bucket list, the NBA star bought a few bucket hats among other items. Lots and lots of other items:
That’s a lot of money to plunk down, but it could be a savvy investment. Smith is probably on the move this off-season and he could make new friends quickly on another team by distributing some of this stuff.
Condensed schedule winners: Overall, I’m still a fan of the PGA Tour’s revamped schedule. The move of the Players to March and the PGA to May created more buzz for those events and the FedEx Cup will undoubtedly benefit from moving away from football season. HOWEVAH—and I invoke Stephen A. specifically because I sympathize with his pain as a Knicks fan this week—you can’t tell me it’s created the list of winners the tour was hoping for. Since the Masters, here's who has won individual non-major events (not including the Memorial): C.T. Pan, Max Homa, Sung Kang, Kevin Na, Rory McIlroy (OK, OK), Chez Reavie, and Nate Lashley. Yes, there have been some great human-interest stories like Lashley during that stretch, but it seems like an awful lot of big names are choosing to rest in between the biggest tournaments more than ever. I hope I'm wrong about this becoming a trend.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout's ban: The more I read about this story, the more mad I get. This promising player received a two-year ban (later reduced to nine months) for taking beta blockers related to a stuttering problem he developed from accidentally ingesting rat poison as a toddler. How is that fair? Even worse was the timing of the penalty because it kept him from completing a longtime dream of playing for his native South Africa in the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship. "It felt like my life was over," he recalled. Just awful. But on the bright side, five years after that unjust ruling, the 25-year-old won his first European Tour title.
Unappreciated highlights: My golf game isn’t what I’d want it to be right now (Fortunately, I still have a month before the 2019 HGGA Championship at Turning Stone), but you can’t say I don’t GRIND. During another 18-hole struggle (sadly, carrying my bag in 90-degree heat is turning into a death march), my short-game magic—
they I don’t call me “Mr. 60” around the office for nothing—managed to give the fans a thrill with a sweet chip-in on No. 18 from a downhill lie in the rough. Sadly, it was for par, and even sadder was no one, not even my three playing partners saw it. What a shame. What a waste.
The PGA Tour heads to Minnesota for the inaugural 3M Open at Twin Cities Golf Club, AKA that place where senior golfers have shot low scores the past two decades. Combined with last week’s new Rocket Mortgage (Instant) Classic, apparently, we’ve reached the Inaugural Swing of the tour schedule.
Random tournament fact: Nearly half of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes (weird flex, but OK) are on this Arnold Palmer design. At least, that’s what it’s going to feel like for those struggling off the tee.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Brooks Koepka will win the 2019 3M Open: 8-to-1 odds (Actual odds)
— Brooks Koepka will win the 2019 British Open: 7-to-1 odds (Actual odds, crazy)
— Brooks Koepka will cry less than Steve Stricker if he wins either: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Look at that wholesome family! You’ve got Steve the champ. His wife and caddie Nicki. And two daughters, Bobbi and Izzy, both promising golfers as well. Following the win, the four piled into the family truckster and drove four hours home. Perfect.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
This guy wanted to play golf so badly that he lied to his wife (not uncommon) and then brought his work clothes to convince her he wasn’t playing hooky from work (uncommon):
Now that’s dedication to the game. Not to anything else, but to the game. Respect.
ARCHIVE VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Check out this old Reebok Pump commercial featuring. . . Greg Norman? Yep, Greg Norman. And listen for a nice little random dagger at Curtis Strange:
Who says basketball sneaker-golf shoe crossovers are a new thing?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Yeah, I came in here with a chip on my shoulder. I talked about being ornery and maybe I need more of that.” — Is the world ready for an “ornery” Steve Stricker? Again, Bernhard better watch his back.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
A couple of legendary quarterbacks turned heads on the golf course this week. First, Brett Favre showed off his short-game skills:
And then Tom Brady showed off his swing and potty mouth, forgetting his kids were in the cart:
LOL dad life, am I right? Just say "ear muffs" next time, Tom. But seriously, I don't know where that shot went, but the swing is looking good. Maybe you should hang up the football cleats and do this celebrity golf thing full time. . . You've won enough Super Bowl rings. . . Just a thought. . .
THIS WEEK IN PHIL BEING PHIL
Mickelson got his mom in the mix for episode 2 of “Phiresidewith Phil”:
Keep ‘em coming, Phil! And congrats on being named Golf Digest/The Loop's CONTENT KING of the PGA Tour! Check out the full ranking here.
THIS WEEK IN
DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY BROOKS KOEPKA-JENA SIMS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
No one piles up majors and thong pics like Brooks Koepka. No one.
THIS WEEK IN OTHER TOUR PROS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Aspiring PGA Tour player Maverick McNealy put out this public plea to see more of girlfriend Danielle Kang during this past week’s LPGA event:
Awww. What a sweetie. Kang, of course, appreciated the support:
The couple that watches each other's golf tournaments together, stays together. Or, something like that.
THIS AND THAT
Sung Hyun Park won the LPGA's NW Arkansas Championship to move back to No. 1 in the world. On the flip side, Zach Johnson fell out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since April 2004, AKA my last full month in college. Good run, Zach. I also shudder to think how much more money he's made than me these past 15 years. . . . Michelle Wie announced she is taking the rest of the year off to rest her bad wrist. And probably, to wedding plan. Good luck with both, Michelle. . . . Tom Watson shot his age or better three of the four rounds at the U.S. Senior Open. That had only been done twice before. The guy is a freak. . . . Doc Redman Monday qualified and finished solo second at the Rocket Mortgage Classic to earn a PGA Tour special temporary membership for the rest of the season. The Clemson product won the U.S. Amateur less than two years ago and I had totally forgotten about him already. Wow, are there a lot of great golfers out there. . . . And finally, I tried Costco’s new “mini chocolate chip cookies” instead of their regular and amazing regular chocolate chip cookies. You know, for “research” purposes:
Not surprisingly, they didn’t disappoint.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Who is Brett Favre’s short-game coach?
What’s the point of being a Knicks fan?
Which cookies should I buy this weekend?