Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands



The Grind

Tom Kim’s unusual Vegas celebration, Lexi Thompson’s brush with history and the most clutch golf shot not seen on TV

October 17, 2023

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are still licking our wounds from the beating Team Young gave Team Old at the annual Golf Digest Seitz Cup. I know you’re shocked to learn I’m on the Olds (thank you), but I have been for a few years and this time was even a vice captain. To be clear, though, JOEL BEALL was the captain. And he was the one who came back with bad juju from Rome after watching Team USA get smoked in the Ryder Cup. To be fair, we were missing a LOT of our big guns, but it happens. Congrats to our counterparts from Team Young, Daria Delfino and Meredith Bausback:

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And check out this cool video our social team put together of all our swings:

Good times. Anyway, if we do get another crack at leading our team (and that’s a big IF), we are going to “strip things down to the bone” like Paul McGinley said the Euros did after getting drubbed at Whistling Straits. Maybe even give all our players Myers-Briggs (no relation) personality tests to find the best pairings. And hire Edoardo Molinari to crunch some numbers for us. You know, really go all out. In the meantime, here’s what else has us talking.

WE’RE BUYING

Tom Kim: Even taking a year between wins kept Kim on a historic pace as the 21-year-old remains the youngest player since Tiger Woods to get to three PGA Tour titles. And now that he’s of legal drinking age, he really lived it up after doubling down in Sin City. Just kidding, he had the most wholesome celebration imaginable:

As if I couldn’t love this guy any more. He’s a fast-food fanatic AND a chocolate junkie? My man. It might be time to update "The Ballad of Tommy the Kid." Heck, I didn’t even mind him costing me a big payday with Adam Hadwin (OK, so I minded a bit!). Although Ferrero Rocher is a bit too fancy for me. And it took him more than one sitting to finish a chocolate bar? I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my life. We already knew he was the best 21-year-old golfer on the planet, but now we also know he might be the most disciplined as well having left Las Vegas so quickly and quietly after being handed a check for $1.5 million. Not that we couldn’t have predicted this from his big birthday bash earlier this year:

Wild times. Tom may have even treated himself to an entire glass of milk with those cookies. Anyway, the golf world has fallen in love with Ludvig Aberg of late, but what if I told you that Kim is two-and-a-half YEARS younger than the Swede? In other words, there’s going to be a lot more celebratory chocolate in his future.

Brooks Koepka/Talor Gooch: You can always count on Brooks Koepka to bring his best to the majors—and anytime he travels to Jeddah. For a second consecutive year, Koepka won the LIV event there for $4 million, but this time he also earned a $4 million bonus for finishing third in the season-long standings. Not that he had any clue:

Or maybe he did and he was smiling extra big because he bumped Bryson DeChambeau out of the third spot. Either way, his prize paled to the $18 million Gooch took home for finishing first for the year, plus $2 million for the runner-up finish in the final LIV regular-season event. That brings his season-long total to a staggering $33 million, or more than double his career PGA Tour earnings.

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Asanka Ratnayake

Yeah, he’s smiling extra big, too.

Angel Yin: Considering how often we see her on the leaderboard, it’s crazy that she earned her first LPGA title on Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai by beating World No. 1 Lilia Vu in a playoff. But it was a long time coming for this long hitter, who lost a playoff to Vu at the first major of the year. (It was also a long-time coming for the return of this event, which had been canceled the past three years due to COVID.)

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Zhe Ji

The 25-year-old grabbed her maiden LPGA win in the 159th start of her career. And she’s also excited about her new on-course strategy, which involves, well, getting excited. “Growing up, everyone taught me to be stone-faced, no emotions, poker face,” Yin said. “I don’t think that fits me. What’s fitting me right now is what I’m doing to express myself.” Good for you, Angel.

Lexi Thompson: It wasn’t the finish she wanted, but what an effort by the 28-year-old, who came close to becoming the first woman to make the cut at a PGA Tour event since the legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945 (“Legendary” barely does her justice … check out this pod I did on her with Don Van Natta Jr.). Thompson was four under in her second round in Vegas and inside the number before a pair of late bogeys caused her to miss by three.

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Orlando Ramirez

Still, shooting even par over two days against the guys—and under the microscope—was one heckuva performance. I hope she treated herself to at least a chocolate bar.

WE’RE SELLING

Lexi Thompson’s trophy case: That being said … it was hard to watch Lexi drive a 300-yard par 4 (Heck, even one of those late bogeys came from flushing an iron through a 247-yard par 3) and not wonder how in the world she’s only won one LPGA major. An all-time phenom, Thompson qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12, won her first LPGA title at 16 and first major at 19, when she beat Michelle Wie head to head at Mission Hills. I remember her easily smoking 3-woods past the driver of Wie, who wasn’t a short hitter herself. What a talent. And I’m glad a larger audience got to witness that this past week. But she won her lone major the same year Rory McIlroy won his last of four, and we pile on him at every chance about that drought. Just saying. Hey, maybe this is the spark she needed to finally win more.

LIV getting shut out of OWGR: I’m not even close to being good enough at math to come up with a solution to this. Heck, I can barely understand how the current Official World Golf Ranking works. But we are well past the point of it not making sense that LIV golfers get no credit for what they do on a (semi-) weekly basis. Obviously, some of the best players in the world play on that tour and guys like Talor Gooch deserve to be playing in all four majors. Bryson DeChambeau’s proposal that the tour’s top 12 guys get into majors is a bit much, but I think at least the top five should. Otherwise, we’re going to start to cheapen the majors. That is, if LIV even sticks around after this whole proposed PGA Tour partnership.

This lipout: It wasn’t LIV money, but some guy got a crack at sinking a long putt for $10,000. And then this happened:

A full horseshoe from that far away? That’s about as brutal of a lipout as you’ll see, regardless of what was on the line.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour heads to Japan for the Zozo Championship, AKA that one that could wind up being (gulp) Tiger Woods’ last career win. Woods won here in 2019, six months after his epic fifth Masters victory, to make more history by matching Sam Snead with 82 career PGA Tour titles. As I’ve written in the past, Woods actually deserves the record by himself, but hopefully, he’ll actually break it without the tour having to change any criteria. In other news, LIV will have its big team championship finale at Doral.

Random tournament fact: Defending Zozo champ Keegan Bradley (25-to-1 odds this week) also played alongside Tiger during his win in 2019 so he’s got good vibes here. And what a cool story it would be if the Ryder Cup snub beat everyone again. Well, it wouldn’t be that cool for Zach Johnson.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Zach Johnson will be back as Team USA captain: 100-to-1 odds

—Joel and I will be back as Team Old captains: 10-to-1 odds

—Both of our teams would rather have Tiger Woods instead: LOCK

PHOTO/TWEET/INSTAGRAM OF THE WEEK

Someone painted that guy who flipped out on the golf course and ripped off his shirt a few weeks back—and it’s glorious:

Now that’s art.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (WILDLIFE DIVISION)

How about this Australian golfer nearly holing a bunker shot by hitting his golf ball over a kangaroo?

This might deserve its own painting as well.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (GOAT DIVISION)

Imagine making a hole-in-one in Tiger Woods’ presence? (Second slide.)

Pretty awesome. (And pretty cool to see Tiger dressed so casual out there.) Of course, that 11-year-old kid, Holden Bautista, did the same last week. And then he got to ask Woods a question and did this:

Talk about milking the news cycle. Well played, young man.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (INSTANT LEGENDS DIVISION)

Congrats to Chase Dewese for not only winning the fall member-guest at NorthStone Country Club in Huntersville, N.C., but for doing it with a walk-off eagle that was caught on video:

Talk about coming up clutch. What a shot. And what an amazing reaction. Those guys definitely had a lot more than chocolate bars to celebrate that dramatic victory.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Travis Scott challenged Brooks Koepka on the range—and found out just how good he is:

Which is funny, because last week we wrote about that London store challenging regular golfers to prove they were worthy of buying the new Travis Scott Jordan golf shoes. Safe to say Brooks is worthy.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Google photos randomly shared a nice montage of pics with me entitled “Hug it out.” There were some great ones of my girls in there, but then this screenshot of Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey hugging his caddie slipped in there somehow:

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I watch way too much golf.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION STRENGTH

So far this month, Kyle Berkshire has broken a world record for fastest ball speed and now the world record for longest drive, a 579-yard(!) poke! Have a look:

I don’t care if he was hitting it off a mountain, that’s insane. And Kyle being in good form is good timing with the World Long Driver Championship this week in Atlanta. Speaking of which, we had defending champ Martin Borgmeier on this week’s pod. Have a listen!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There’s only three of us on our team.” —Brooks Koepka’s latest not-so-subtle shot at teammate Matthew Wolff, officially one of the four golfers on Smash GC. Well, for one more week, that is.

THIS AND THAT

RIP Andy Bean, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and three-time major runner-up who once said, “I never hit a bad-looking shot.” Sounds like a guy who would have been a favorite of The Grind if it existed during his playing days. … And RIP to longtime Open Championship first-tee announcer Ivor Robson. This video still gets me:

Beau Hossler became the 16th player to shoot 62 or better in the first round on the PGA Tour this year. Only one of those players, Keegan Bradley at the Travelers Championship, went on to win. Crazy. … The Hero World Challenge released its 2023 field and Will Zalatoris and his bad back is back! Great news. Of course, it would be even better news if former Golf Digest playing editor Tiger Woods was listed, but there is still that one sponsor exemption to fill. … And, finally, I spotted this veteran walking around Costco with a fantastic “GOLF” sweater and had to take a photo:

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What a legend. It’s because of people like him that we can enjoy going to Costco and wear whatever we want. So thank you for your service.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

What LIV team will Matthew Wolff play for next year?

Would Tiger want to play on Team Old next year?

Where can I get one of those “GOLF” sweaters?