Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Scottie Scheffler looks to rebound while Bryson DeChambeau takes a bow

By admin Jun26,2024

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterJun 20, 2024, 08:20 AM ET

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    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

As summer heats up, there’s only one major championship left in men’s professional golf — next month’s Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Course in Scotland.

There’s also just one signature event left on the PGA Tour schedule — this week’s Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

And the LIV Golf League has hit the second half of its season, heading to its 12th different state for this week’s tournament outside Nashville, Tennessee.

Rory McIlroy won’t be playing in the Travelers Championship, as he’s taking a few weeks away from the game after his gut-wrenching finish at the U.S. Open. All of the PGA Tour’s other stars are in the field, as well as rookie Michael Thorbjornsen, who is making his pro debut.

After missing the U.S. Open with a left foot injury, two-time major champion Jon Rahm will be back in action at the LIV Golf tournament. So will U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, who is probably still catching his breath after his stunning finish.

Here’s what to watch in men’s professional golf this week:

What’s next on the PGA Tour

Scottie Scheffler is coming off a rough performance at the U.S. Open. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Travelers Championship
When: Thursday-Sunday
Where: TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut
Defending champion: Keegan Bradley
Purse: $20 million ($3.6 million to winner)

Scheffler’s streak

In the span of four days at Pinehurst No. 2 last week, Scottie Scheffler went from being the hottest golfer on the planet, having won in five of his past eight starts, to one who hasn’t broken par in his past five rounds, including all four at the U.S. Open.

It’s simply the nature of the game, according to Scheffler. In retrospect, the world No. 1 golfer said he didn’t have his best stuff at an unforgiving course. Pinehurst No. 2’s native areas left him in too many difficult spots off the tee.

“When I’m not playing my best, I feel like one of my skills is kind of managing my way around the golf course, knowing where the misses are,” Scheffler said Tuesday. “When you have pretty much a coin flip on whether or not you’re going to have a swing or not, there’s not really a side of the fairway to miss it on, there’s not really areas you can play to, you just have to hit great golf shots.”

The U.S. Open was the first time in Scheffler’s pro career that he didn’t break par in a tournament. He carded 71-74-71-72 and tied for 41st at 8-over 288.

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Scheffler hasn’t fared better than fourth at the Travelers Championship, but his caddie, Ted Scott, was carrying Bubba Watson‘s bag when he won at TPC River Highlands three times.

“He always reminds me of that,” Scheffler said.

Making the course tougher

After Keegan Bradley nearly set the PGA Tour scoring record with a 72-hole total of 23-under 257 at the Travelers Championship last year, McIlroy called TPC River Highlands “obsolete” and said improved equipment had “passed it by.”

With heavy rains softening the greens, Bradley set 54- and 72-hole scoring records for the tournament. There were 44 players at 10 under or better, and only one golfer who made the cut finished over par.

TPC River Highlands ranked as the 40th-most difficult course on tour last season with a scoring average of 68.401. There were only 10 courses with lower averages.

In response, the club made several changes, including reducing the fairway widths on Nos. 1, 6, 12 and 13 and adding primary rough to a downhill slope on No. 12. Mounding was added to the right rough on No. 6, right side of the No. 9 green and the left side of No. 13. The Nos. 9 and 11 greens were also reduced in size.

“Usually, there’s some courses that people try to redo and they make them worse,” said Xander Schauffele, the 2022 Travelers Championship winner. “So that’s just kind of how it goes, unfortunately, just trying to cater to modern golf and, you know, putting bunkers 350 yards and turning.

“Any time you turn a par-5 into a par-4 it makes the hole worse because the hole was designed to be a par-5 and then you’re hitting a 4-iron into it. So out here it seems like visually it’s a little bit more intimidating, some of the fairways are tighter on 1 and 6, but the course looks the same for the most part. The green on 11 is a little bit smaller, which is fine because it’s a wedge or 9-iron or something of that nature. So, overall, I think the course is still outstanding and the small upgrades to it are a good thing.”

Thorbjornsen’s pro debut

Michael Thorbjornsen, a former Stanford All-American, earned his PGA Tour card through the 2025 season by finishing first in the PGA Tour University pathway for college golfers. He will make his pro debut this week.

It’s not the first time Thorbjornsen, from Wellesley, Massachusetts, has competed in the event. In 2022, while playing on a sponsor exemption, Thorbjornsen finished fourth at 15 under, 4 strokes behind Schauffele. Since he was playing as an amateur, he couldn’t collect the $406,700 he would have won.

“This is definitely my home, I would say, on the PGA Tour,” Thorbjornsen said. “Obviously, I made my first PGA Tour start here two years ago as an amateur. Love this place. It’s close to home. Love the golf course.”

Thorbjornsen, 22, won the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur and made the cut and finished 79th at the 2019 U.S. Open. He made the cut in three of eight starts in PGA Tour events as an amateur, most recently tying for 17th at the John Deere Classic in July 2023.

“Whenever I see Massachusetts on the hometown, I am hyperfocused on whatever they’re doing,” said Bradley, who graduated from high school in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. “So, I’m so proud of what he’s done. The rumors of what type of player he is are strong. That he’s, you know, very, very good. I love that.

“I can relate to what he’s gone through to get to this point — winters and stuff like that. So I’m always pulling for players from around here.”

What’s next in the LIV Golf League

Jon Rahm is finally healthy ahead of LIV Golf Nashville. Tim Warner/Getty Images

LIV Golf Nashville
When: Friday-Sunday
Where: The Grove, College Grove, Tennessee
Purse: $25 million ($20 million individual, $5 million team); $4 million to winning individual, $3 million to winning team

Rahm is ready

Legion XIII captain Jon Rahm, who was forced to withdraw from last week’s U.S. Open because of an infected wound on his left foot, said Wednesday that he’ll be ready to tee off on Friday.

He had to pull out of the LIV Golf League’s tournament in Houston after six holes of the second round on June 8 because of the same injury.

“I’m feeling good,” Rahm said. “The main reason for the withdrawal [from] the two events was the infection I had and just to be precautionary towards not making it worse and seeing what steps I can take to prevent that from happening in the future.”

Rahm said the wound is still on his left foot, but added, “I’m not going to really make it worse. A lot of things to follow up from what happened to make sure it heals properly and it doesn’t happen again.”

Rahm is still second in the individual points league with 98.17 after finishing in the top 10 in each of his first seven starts. He’s 36.23 points behind Torque GC captain Joaquín Niemann.

“I feel ready to walk and hit it,” Rahm said. “I haven’t been able to do much. It doesn’t take much for me to feel ready to compete. Looking forward to it. Just happy that I’m here.”

DeChambeau’s victory lap

It has been quite a ride for Bryson DeChambeau since he won his second U.S. Open title with a 1-shot victory over Rory McIlroy at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday.

DeChambeau appeared on the “Today Show,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Pat McAfee Show” and MSNBC. He estimates a couple of thousand people have touched the U.S. Open trophy since Sunday.

When DeChambeau arrived at The Grove on Tuesday, a crowd of LIV Golf League employees were there to greet him.

During a news conference Tuesday, DeChambeau talked about learning from things he shouldn’t have done and saying things he shouldn’t have said in the past.

“Messing up and learning from those mistakes and learning patience, resilience, determination, continuing to grow in that capacity and then getting to a place where I finally get to showcase my true self and show others what this great game means to me, it’s given me so much,” DeChambeau said. “It’s time for me to give back.

“That’s what I love most. That’s why this was so important for everyone to touch the trophy. I wanted everybody to experience it because it wasn’t just for me, it was for the turnaround, everyone looking at me going, ‘Wow, that person is different than what I thought.’ It was for them, those people that saw who I now am, who I am. That’s what I wanted people to feel is that involvement, that appreciation from me saying thank you. It meant a lot.”

Bryson’s Olympic snub

After tying for sixth at the Masters, finishing solo second at the PGA Championship and winning the U.S. Open, DeChambeau climbed to No. 10 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking.

That still wasn’t enough to get him into the 60-man field for the Olympic men’s golf tournament outside Paris on Aug. 1-4.

Because rules prevent a single country from sending more than four golfers to the Olympics, DeChambeau was the second man out. Scheffler, Schauffele, Wyndham Clark and Collin Morikawa will represent the U.S. Patrick Cantlay was eighth in the OWGR.

It’s bittersweet because DeChambeau was set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but had to pull out after he tested positive for COVID-19 in final testing before leaving the U.S. He was replaced on the team by Patrick Reed.

“Not being able to go in 2020 was unfortunate for sure,” DeChambeau said. “It was very disappointing. But I got sick, and we took the precautions and made the right decisions, and I got healthy from it. I recovered. I got my smell back. It’s all good.”

DeChambeau said he realized he might not be able to compete in team events like the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and the Olympics when he left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in June 2022.

“This time around, it’s disappointing, but I understand the decisions I made, and the way things have played out has not been necessarily perfectly according to plan,” he said. “I’ve done my best up until now to give myself a chance according to the OWGR, but I realize and respect where the current situation of the game is, albeit it’s frustrating and disappointing. Hopefully 2028 will be a little different situation, and it will make it that much sweeter.”

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