Tom Kim hits the record book, Patrick Cantley is late, Eugenio Chacarra tops up his bank account, LIV gets rejected and more on this week’s Monday Scramble:
In a shocking ending at the Shriners in Las Vegas, Patrick Cantley made a triple ghost ball on the 72nd hole to clear the way for rising star Tom Kim and secure his second U21 PGA Tour victory.
Let’s start with Kim, who turned pro at 15 but burst onto the scene this summer when he nearly won the Scottish Open despite not having PGA Tour status. A few starts later, he won for the first time when he closed out the Wyndham Championship with a score of 62 to announce his intentions. Even in a losing game, he was the top player in the Presidents’ Cup, where he was loved by his international teammates and a crowd favorite for his monstrous talent and infectious energy, which embodied a feisty team. After that, Captain Trevor Immelman made no attempt to hide his newfound love and appreciation.
“He has been a huge gift to our sport,” he said of Kim. “He has the ability to become a global superstar, this kid. I know he has a game; we saw that he has a game. But what I learned about his personality, his heart and what he stands for – man, I’m a big fan of his.”
And in Kim’s first start since Quayle Hollow, he passed TPC Summerlin unscathed to beat Cantley on the final day with a final score of 66.
At 20 years, 3 months and 18 days, Kim became the second youngest multiple Tour winner, behind only Ralph Gouldal, who was a month younger when he accomplished the feat… in 1932. Kim, now down to world No. 15, 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. It’s clear that his acting is great, but he’s dynamic and engaging, and that’s a marketer’s dream.
In a year of notable losses, the Tour looks like it added a potential game-changer to Kim.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said. “I’m 20 years old. I still have a lot to learn from these guys. I just need to keep working on my game and hopefully there will be a lot of good things along the way.”
And then it was Cantley, who nearly hit 59 in the third round of the Shriners and was trying to win for the ninth time at the Tour.
On Sunday, he wasn’t as good, but two birdie hits on the 16th put him back in a tie to lead Kim. Then came a stunning throw on the 18th: Cantley roped his 3-wood tee into the bushes, an uncharacteristic throw for a player of his reputation.
From there, Cantley was faced with the decision to: A.) Rush to the fairway, hoping for parity and playoffs; or B.) accept an unplayable lie and try to get up and down from 170 yards away, in your native area, over water. Cantley decided to knock him out of the bushes – and it didn’t work. The ball was sinking deeper into trouble and had no choice but to make a drop. With his title chances gone, he went all-in and scored his fourth shot. He sank a 35-footer with a triple bogey—his longest putt of the week—and saved the tie by finishing second with Matt NeSmith.
Cantley bravely confronted the media after the last hole disaster and calmly explained his decision-making process. He didn’t bemoan his bad luck with where his tee shot landed (“I took a bad swing and he went where he went”) and didn’t look for silver linings.
“Obviously the last hole ruins the whole week,” he said.
He is now 3 out of 5 in his Tour career with at least a 54 hole share of the lead. Ironically, both of those unfortunate opportunities presented themselves in Vegas (2020 when he hit 73rd in the final round to finish in eighth).
Just for the fifth Eugenio Chacarra, who started out as a professional after a colorful career in Oklahoma State, was a winner at LIV Golf. He hit 19 under par shots over 54 holes in Thailand, winning by three shots over former Masters champion Patrick Reed and four shots over 15-time European Tour winner Paul Casey.
Those who have followed amateur golf over the past few years (this scribe included) knew that Chacarra was the real deal; he was described by his former college coach, Alan Bratton, as a hitter of the generation who, with a long stick, helped neutralize what was puzzling.
Of the list of LIV winners so far, Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith have been the most important as the upstart league struggles to gain credibility, but Chacarra has been by far the most interesting.
The 22-year-old Spaniard planned to return for his final season with the Cowboys until LIV called with a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. Had he turned it down (as others in his place have done), then Chacarra would likely need a strong senior season to finish in the top five on the PGA Tour University standings, which would then earn him Korn Ferry Tour status, starting since summer. 2023. At this point, if he had played well enough, he was hoping to balance several PGA Tour eliminations with trying to score enough points on the limited Korn Ferry Tour to earn his card. If not, he would be dutifully at least one more year in the minors.
This is not the path that Chakarra chose.
He signed to LIV, teamed up with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia and earned $4.75 million from Sunday’s win. This is a major change and will no doubt be used by LIV supporters to defend what is a polarizing decision.
If Chakarra cared only about getting rich, no doubt this was the right move. Those early professional years can be unforgiving, and guaranteed checks take away a lot of the stress. He got millions for signing. Playing, he earned more millions. And the money won’t run out anytime soon.
But it is still unknown what awaits its competitive future. He was ranked #2 in the world among amateurs, but he is now ranked #2756 among pros and has no real hope of making much progress on that front. This means he will be excluded from the majors (for which he needs to top 60 at worst unless he goes through all the qualifying stages) and any other major event in which young players judge themselves. A place in the Ryder Cup also seems unlikely.
Of course, Chacarra can test himself against the best players in the LIV, but not against the other best players in the world. Not in events that matter. that create a legacy. Which create historical figures.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter to Chakarra right now. He is young. He’s having fun. He is learning to be a professional. At some point, the fractured world of golf will come together, and time is on its side. At the winner’s press conference, he certainly showed no concern or concern about the chosen career path.
“I am very proud to be here,” he said. “I am learning a lot. I play with the best players in the world and that’s what I’ve wanted to do since childhood. They try to help me in any way I can and I always study there and it was a dream.
“I couldn’t be more excited for the years ahead.”
In another example Greg Norman, too promising and underestimating, The Official World Ranking of Golf dashed LIV Golf’s hopes of earning world ranking points at last week’s LIV event.
LIV thought it had discovered a loophole by announcing a strategic alliance with the obscure and virtually defunct MENA Tour, which has only held one 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 LIV events funded by Saudi Arabia.
In a statement announcing the deal, both MENA and LIV said they were “expecting” to receive points starting 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 jointly sanctioned event. Norman and company made the announcement at a raucous pro-amateur party two days before the start of the final round, sparking a wild celebration.
But the party quickly fell silent, and a day later, the OWGR ruled that the alliance’s notice – two days before the first round – was “insufficient” and required full consideration. The official LIV application for points is currently under review, and the process could take up to a year or two, no matter how much Norman stamps his feet or chimes the system.
It’s unclear how the OWGR board will side with the LIV-MENA alliance, but the dismissal…