Tom Kim joins the record books, Patrick Cantlay implodes late, Eugenio Chacarra adds to his bank account, LIV gets denied and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
In a shocking finish to the Shriners in Las Vegas, Patrick Cantlay made triple bogey on the 72nd hole to clear the way for rising star Tom Kim to secure his second PGA Tour victory before the age of 21.
Let’s start with Kim, who turned pro at 15 but burst onto the scene this summer when he nearly stole the Scottish Open despite not holding any PGA Tour status. He became a first-time winner a few starts later, when he closed with a 62 at the Wyndham Championship to announce his intentions. Even in a losing effort he was the breakout performer at the Presidents Cup, where he was beloved by his International teammates and a crowd favorite for his monster talent and infectious energy that embodied the scrappy squad. Afterward, captain Trevor Immelman didn’t try to hide his newfound love and appreciation.
“He’s been such a tremendous gift to our sport,” he said of Kim. “He has an ability to be a global superstar, this kid. I know he has game; we’ve seen he has the game. But what I’ve learned about his personality and his heart and what he stands for – man, I am a huge fan.”
And in Kim’s first start since Quail Hollow, well, he went around TPC Summerlin without a bogey and outdueled Cantlay on the final day with a closing 66.
At 20 years, 3 months and 18 days, Kim became the second-youngest multiple-time Tour winner, behind only Ralph Guldahl, who was a month younger when he accomplished the feat ... in 1932. Kim, now up to 15th in the world, became the first since Tiger Woods to win twice before his 21st birthday.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but Kim has all the makings of a superstar. Clearly, his game is awesome, but he’s dynamic and engaging and a marketer’s dream.
In a year of notable losses, the Tour looks like it added a potential game-changer in Kim.
“I’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. “I’m 20 years old. I’ve still got a lot to learn from these guys. I’ve just got to keep working on my game, and hopefully there’s a lot of good things along the way.”
And then there was Cantlay, who nearly shot 59 in the third round of the Shriners and was trying to win for the ninth time on Tour.
He wasn’t quite as sharp on Sunday, but a two-putt birdie on 16 put him back into a tie for the lead with Kim. Then came the stunner on 18: Cantlay rope-hooked his 3-wood tee shot into the brush, an out-of-character shot for a player of his reputation.
From there, Cantlay faced a decision: A.) Slash out toward the fairway, hoping for a par and a playoff; or B.) take an unplayable lie and try to get up-and-down from 170 yards away, in the native area, over water. Cantlay opted to hack it out of the brush – and it didn’t work out. The ball plunged deeper into trouble, and he had little choice but to take a drop. With his title chances gone, he went for broke and rinsed his fourth shot. He sank a 35-footer for triple bogey – his longest made putt of the week – to salvage a tie for second with Matt NeSmith.
Cantlay gamely met the media after the final-hole disaster and calmly explained his decision-making process. He didn’t bemoan his bad luck with where his tee shot ended up (“I made a bad swing, and it went where it went.”) and didn’t bother looking for silver linings.
“Obviously, the last hole makes the whole week kind of sour,” he said.
He’s now 3-for-5 in his Tour career with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Oddly, both of those failed opportunities have come in Vegas (2020, when he shot a final-round 73 and tied for eighth).
In just his fifth start since turning pro following a decorated career at Oklahoma State, Eugenio Chacarra is a winner on the LIV Golf circuit. He shot 19 under par across 54 holes in Thailand, winning by three shots over former Masters champion Patrick Reed and by four over 15-time European Tour winner Paul Casey.
Those who have followed amateur golf over the past few years (including this scribe) knew that Chacarra was the real deal; his former college coach, Alan Bratton, described him as a generational ball-striker who, with the help of the long putter, has helped neutralize what was an eyebrow-raising weakness.
Of the list of LIV winners so far, Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith were the most important as the upstart league tries to establish credibility, but Chacarra was by far the most interesting.
The 22-year-old Spaniard was planning to return for his final season with the Cowboys until LIV came calling with a multi-year, multimillion contract. Had he turned that down (as others did in his position), then Chacarra likely would have needed a strong senior season to finish inside the top 5 in the PGA Tour University standings, which then would have earned him Korn Ferry Tour status beginning in summer 2023. At that point, if he played well enough, he’d hope to balance a few PGA Tour exemptions with trying to rack up enough points in limited Korn Ferry Tour starts to earn his card. If not, he’d be resigned to at least another year in the minors.
That’s not the path that Chacarra chose.
He signed up for LIV, teamed up with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, and with the victory Sunday he raked in $4.75 million. That’s a serious chunk of change, and it’ll undoubtedly be used by LIV loyalists to defend what is a polarizing decision.
If Chacarra cared only about getting rich, no doubt, it was the right move. Those early-pro years can be unforgiving, and guaranteed checks remove a lot of the stress. He got millions for signing. He’s earned millions more by playing. And the money won’t be drying up anytime soon.
But it’s unknown, right now, what his competitive future holds. He was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world as an amateur, but he’s now No. 2,756 as a pro and with no real hope of making significant progress on that front. That means he’ll be shut out of the majors (for which he needs to be, at worst, top 60, unless he goes through every stage of qualifying) and every other marquee event in which young players judge themselves. A Ryder Cup spot seems unlikely, too.
Sure, Chacarra can test himself against the best players on LIV – but not against the other top players in the world. Not in the events that matter. That create legacies. That create historical figures.
That might not matter to Chacarra right now. He’s young. He’s having fun. He’s learning how to be a pro. The fractured golf world will get pieced together at some point, and time is on his side. At the winner’s press conference, he certainly didn’t show any anxiousness or uneasiness over his chosen career path.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be here,” he said. “I’m learning a lot. I’m playing with the best players in the world, and that’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was little. They’re trying to help me as much as I can, and I’m always there learning, and it’s been a dream.
"I can’t be more excited for the next years to come."
In another example of Greg Norman overpromising and underdelivering, the Official World Golf Ranking thwarted LIV Golf’s hopes of receiving world-ranking points at last week’s LIV event.
LIV thought it had discovered a loophole by announcing a strategic alliance with the little-known and basically defunct MENA Tour, which has played just a single event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Its winners receive $75,000 – or $45,000 less than the last-place finisher at the Saudi-funded LIV events.
Both the MENA and LIV circuits said in a statement announcing the deal that they “expected” to receive points beginning last week in Thailand and continuing this week with the final individual event of the season in Saudi Arabia, essentially using the argument that it was now a co-sanctioned event. Norman and Co. made the claim in a raucous pro-am party two days before the start of the final round, touching off a lusty celebration.
But the party quickly turned quiet, with the OWGR ruling a day later that notice of the alliance – two days before the opening round – was “insufficient” and required a full review. LIV’s official application for points is currently under review, a process that could take up to a year or two no matter how much Norman stamps his feet or rebukes the system.
It’s unclear how the OWGR board will side on the LIV-MENA alliance but a dismissal could trigger yet another lawsuit that always seemed inevitable. Over the weekend, Norman continued his revenge tour by saying that golf's five families need to "grow up," as if it helps to antagonize the folks who can dictate his future.
The public smackdown was reminiscent of how Norman promised interested players at the outset that the PGA Tour couldn’t suspend them for joining the rival league, only for them to be indefinitely banned as soon as they struck their first shot in LIV competition. (The antitrust lawsuit will commence in January 2024.) He has promised they won’t be kept out of the majors, but that, too, is unknown, with Augusta National going radio silent and the other three organizations all openly discussing changing their qualifying criteria.
And the points? Even if LIV events receive points later in 2023 – again, a big if – they probably wouldn't get many for their limited-field, low-strength tournaments. And several of the LIV players would spiral so far down the rankings that it might not even matter; they’d have too much ground to make up to reach the qualifying thresholds. Bryson DeChambeau acknowledged this grim scenario.
Of course, all of this should have been factored into a player’s calculus as he decided whether to make the jump to LIV. Unless he or his agent relied solely on Norman’s word. In that case, good luck.
THIS WEEK'S AWARD WINNERS ...
Home Cooking: Jon Rahm. With a final-round 62, Rahm stormed home to win the Spanish Open for the third time, joining his boyhood hero Seve Ballesteros. It was "only" Rahm’s second victory of the year, but he’s looking like a player who doesn’t want 2022 to end – he has finished eighth or better in four of his past five starts. He feels poised and primed for a monster year.
Sympathetic View: Rahm on LIVers. There were two notable examples of Rahm seemingly extending a hand to the players who have been ostracized for leaving for LIV. First, he once again called for the rebels to be allowed to play in the Ryder Cup, even though he acknowledged that that scenario “doesn’t look good.” Then he became the only Tour star to congratulate Chacarra on his LIV victory (seen here), saying in Spanish, "Although some people want to make us look at them (LIV) as the enemy, he is just a 22-year-old guy winning against some of the best players of the world. Congratulations if you see this, Eugenio." Maybe Rahm is just looking out for himself here – after all, he and Sergio Garcia went undefeated together in the 2021 Ryder Cup – but his tone is noteworthy considering the hardline stances taken by other Tour supporters.
Blemish-Free: Tom Kim. With his bogey-free week at the Shriners, Kim became just the third player since 1974 to go without a dropped shot in a 72-hole Tour event, joining Lee Trevino and J.T. Poston. Sure, the Vegas stop is always a birdie-fest, but limiting mistakes to that extent is always an incredible feat.
Prez Cup Bump: International team. We’ve already seen those who were snubbed (Ryan Fox, Mackenzie Hughes) cash in on their respective tours, but in many of their first appearances since Quail Hollow, the International team was well-represented at the top of the board in Vegas: Kim won the event, with Mito Pereira, Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim all in the top 8. On the call for Golf Channel, Immelman had to have been wondering where this red-hot play was a few weeks earlier.
Tweet of the Week: Kevin Kisner’s “fan.” Just think about the amount of effort it took to write and then mail this love note following Kisner’s Presidents Cup appearance … and then consider how that guy’s time would have been better spent in therapy.
Worth the Wait: Jodi Ewart Shadoff. In her 246th career start on the LPGA, Ewart Shadoff led wire to wire at the Mediheal Championship and then held on for a narrow victory over a trio of major champions. It was an emotional ending for a player who had posted three runners-up over the past decade-plus but was still searching for that elusive title. Good stuff.
Dedicated to the Craft: PGA Tour Live cameraman. Tracking a golf ball that travels 180 mph through a bright blue sky feels like a difficult task for us mere mortals, but these guys are true pros. Scott, unfortunately, got a little too close to the action and got beaned by Im. At least he still captured the shot. Respect.
Weird Optics: Greg Norman/Branden Grace. This was such a cringeworthy post on Norman’s personal account, after Grace went down with an injury and had to withdraw from the LIV event, as if the commissioner needed to appear as though he cared deeply for his players’ health and well-being. In any case, Grace’s WD opened the door for Dustin Johnson to capture the, um, season-long prize, worth another $18 million (in addition to his reported nine-figure signing bonus) for six weeks of work. For comparison, Scottie Scheffler needed 25 events to clear $14 million in on-course earnings last season.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Aaron Wise. Most of the big names hit, so it’s hard to be too disappointed, but Wise had top-10s in half of his six career starts at the Shriners and was playing some of the best golf of his life. It didn’t translate in the desert, as a closing 73 doomed him to a T-64 finish. Sigh.