Xander Schauffele's lights-out performance, Rory McIlroy's Sunday woes continue, and a rules controversy rings in 2019: What you missed this weekend
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social-media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of Jan. 7.
Another W for golf's most underrated player
Xander Schauffele was not on the radar heading into the final round at Kapalua. Which is nothing new; Schauffele is used to being overlooked. But, with performances like the one submitted Sunday at Kapalua, it's getting tough to ignore the X-Man.
Starting his day five back of Gary Woodland, Schauffele bogeyed his first hole...then proceeded to burn the Plantation Course to the ground with two eagles and eight birdies. Schauffele was especially lights-out down the closing stretch, going six under on the final seven, a run jump-started with a hole-out from 107 yards on the 12th.
"I mean it's by far the best final round I ever played, I can tell you that much," Schauffele said.
A score, 62, good enough to tie the course record. A score, thanks to Woodland's 10-foot miss on the 72nd hole, that gave Schauffele the TOC crown.
Schauffele is a name often left on the sidelines when discussing the sport's fledgling crop of talent. Yet with four wins in the last 18 months, along with three top-six major finishes in that span, the 25-year-old undoubtedly warrants inclusion. Just don't tell that to Schauffele.
"I just still feel like an underdog. I feel like until you're No. 1, you're chasing," Schauffele said. "So guys like Bryson and Justin, JT's put together a ton of good years, Brooks has been crushing it. So they're just, they keep putting that flag way out there for me to go and chase and I feel like that's what I've been doing."
Schauffele is going to be a star. Even if it takes awhile to recognize his brightness.
Kevin C. Cox
Rory's Sunday stumbles continue
In itself, Rory McIlroy's week at Kapalua was positive. He finished T-4, respectable given it was his debut appearance at the event, and led the field in strokes gained/off-the-tee. That he was even in that position, after admittedly not playing much golf the preceding weeks, is a testament to his dexterity.
But against the backdrop of 2018, McIlroy's performance, particularly Sunday, paints an increasingly-concerning picture.
For the seventh time since last January, the four-time major winner found himself in the final group. And for the seventh time, McIlroy came up bupkis, his one-under 72 a whopping eight shots behind Schauffele.
“My attitude was much better today [than last season],” McIlroy said. “I was patient. It’s just something I’m going to have to be persistent wth, keep putting myself in position.
“I’m going to go home, reflect on this week what was good and what wasn't so good and work on a few things. This week I showed more versatility in my game. I was hitting different shots—left to right, right to left, hi, low. It’s something I wasn’t quite as comfortable doing last year."
Coming up short is not necessarily troubling; the Ulsterman would have needed a 64 to force a playoff. What's curious, though, is the lack of fight from Rory in these positions, most notably at Augusta National and East Lake, the latter in a high-octane environment with Tiger Woods. Especially for one with a sterling track record.
If McIlroy continues to put himself in these spots, few doubt he'll return to the winner's circle. (Last year's Bay Hill triumph came from the penultimate group.) Nevertheless, the longer this streak continues, the more the intrigue grows, adding another narrative to an already-loaded list of storylines for the upcoming season.
Kevin C. Cox
Bryson not a fan of new rule
Bryson DeChambeau's putting experiment has garnered attention, as the 25-year-old has been the most prominent player to endorse a new rule that allows the flag to remain in at all times. However, it's another rules revision that caught DeChambeau's attention on Friday.
Following a five-under round of 68 at the Tournament of Champions, a score that left him in second place heading into the weekend, DeChambeau was candid in his thoughts about the change in taking a drop. Under the latest iteration to the Rules of Golf, a player must release a ball from knee height. To DeChambeau, a stipulation that doesn't make sense.
“That you have to drop it from knee height is a bit absurd, unfortunately,” DeChambeau said. “I think that you should be able to go from knee height to shoulder height. There should be no issue with that, whatever you want to do, honestly."
DeChambeau also remarked on a decision that allows players to repair damage on putting surfaces. Specifically, how he finds it amusing that players can now fix spike marks. "Because I can see a lot of guys, when nobody's really looking, tapping down some things and making a little depression so they can putt it through that area a little bit better," DeChambeau said.
As for hit trials with the flat stick and flagstick? Let the record state, in his first tournament putting with the pin in, DeChambeau paced the field in strokes gained/putting with a 7.304 figure.
USGA investigating top amateur's status
Lucy Li is an unassailable prodigy. She is the youngest women to qualify for the U.S. Open, appearing in the 2014 event as an 11-year-old, and owns age-related records at the U.S. Women's Amateur and the now-defunct U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. If that wasn't enough, Li made the U.S. Curtis Cup team last June and U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team last September at 15, while making the cut at the U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek. A résumé that reeks of professional aspirations.
Unfortunately, the timetable for those dreams may have accidentally been accelerated this weekend.
On Friday Li appeared in a newly-released commercial for an Apple watch. In the ad, Li is swinging a club with a "Lucy L." chyron over her body, with the 16-year-old shown wearing the product with a group of friends later in the video. Problematic, as her participation violates the USGA's Rules of Amateur Status. Contacted by Golf Digest's Ryan Herrington, Li said she had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Apple that prohibited her from discussing the spot. Her mother, Amy, said via text message that Lucy and the family did not receive any compensation for being in the video.
That might not matter. Under Rule 6-2, “even if no payment or compensation is received, an amateur golfer is deemed to receive a personal benefit by promoting, advertising or selling anything, or allowing his name or likeness to be used by a third party for the promotion, advertisement or sale of anything.”
A USGA spokesperson told Golf Digest that the governing body was made aware of the video on Friday and has reached out to Li’s family to learn more about her participation. “We are at the beginning of the fact-finding stage, and it’s premature at this stage to discuss more,” said the spokesperson via email. “Lucy’s family has been fully cooperative, and we are thankful for the dialogue.”
DJ's rules run-in
It took all of...(double-checks)...two rounds for the first rules controversy of 2019. And it came from a man familiar with such snafus.
During the second round of the TOC, Dustin Johnson sent his tee shot at the par-4 fourth hole into a haza, er, "penalty area." When Johnson was near the vicinity, a volunteer marshal signaled to the defending TOC champ where his ball sat, and DJ smacked the ball it down the fairway. Alas, before he hit his third shot, Johnson realized it wasn't his original ball, and was tagged with a two-stroke penalty under Rule 6.3.
"Obviously it was my fault," Johnson said. "The marshal had it marked, said it went in the hazard right there, so and there was a ball right there and it was a TaylorMade. I could see the logo on the side, so I just, obviously, just assumed it was mine. And it was way up in there, so I didn't want to move anything. But I guess now understanding the new rule, I still, I got to identify, if it moves it's not a penalty. So that won't ever happen again. I can promise you that. But, yeah, it's just bad luck."
Luckily for Johnson, he recognized the error before teeing off on the next hole, which would have led to a disqualification. It ultimately didn't cost him the tournament, finishing T-4 but eight shots back of Schauffele.