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Monday Rap: The Block Party Ends, Brooks' Victory Tour Rolls On, And I Witnessed History

Jonathan Bachman. Getty Images.

Welcome back to the Monday Rap. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve done an old-fashioned recap of the week. Right before the PGA Championship we went with the Q&A format, then last week’s post-Oak Hill 18 Parting Thoughts gave me an excuse to take Monday off. It’s nice to return to the roots of this here column. There are nuggets from all over the golfing universe to discuss, and we’re gonna get to all of them. 

But the hottest topic of discussion in the golf world this week was Michael Block, and it sort of morphed into an indictment of the modern media ecosystem. A brief recap: the club pro captured hearts at the PGA Championship, enjoyed a truly storybook weekend, and then he kept talking. It’s hard to blame him for doing so—for the first time in his life a national audience wanted to hear what he had to say. He did interviews galore, including the Fore Play podcast. He accepted sponsors invites to two of the next three PGA Tour events. He signed with a talent agency. He capitalized on his 15 minutes of fame, but even that makes it sound more nefarious than it is. He simply rode the wave. Would you not?

As Block learned, when you’re constantly talking in front of a microphone, and when every one of your words is dissected with forensic attention, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to put your foot in your mouth in some capacity. Block’s faux pas came on Bob Menery’s podcast, where the 46-year-old essentially said he’d be one of the best players in the world if he had Rory McIlroy’s length of the tee. It’s a bit like saying you’d be the best shooter in the world if you could shoot like Steph Curry, and the internet had an absolute field day with that quote. The picture of humility and the embodiment of a cinderella story immediately morphed into an arrogant target for ridicule. And this wasn’t the same type of complaints that we saw during Oak Hill week. Those were about the media’s constant milking him for content; these were personal attacks. 

Public opinion is a fickle mistress—especially in a sport like golf where fans fetishize the aw-shucks mentality. Everyone wanted Block to be the charity case who just couldn’t believe how well he played for that one magical week, but those paying attention knew he wasn’t the guy all along. After virtually every round at Oak Hill he spoke about believing he has the game to compete, that he fully expects himself to contend with the world’s best should he play his game. 

So yes, Golf Twitter’s opinion turned before he teed it up at Colonial. Then the naysayers were given a healthy dose of Schadenfreude when he shot 81-74 to finish dead last by four shots. 

“I think I felt the wrath of the golf gods this week, which I get it,” Block said after the round. “I completely get it, and I don't blame them for it because they gave me a lot of positive things last week.” 

The whole ordeal reminded me of Rory McIlroy’s last 12 months. In the beginning, when he first emerged as the voice of the PGA Tour, people couldn’t shower him with praise fast enough. He was golf’s conscience, the perfect leader for the moment…until everyone decided they’d heard enough from him, he played poorly a few times and decided he needed a week off. Then, to a large section of the internet, he became sanctimonious and hypocritical. As a result, McIlroy’s now making a conscious effort to say less into microphones. And that’s the natural progression if we continue to judge every person’s every word: they’re simply going to stop giving raw and emotional answers that let us in. It’s why so many athletes go into press conference mad-libs mode. Lord forbid you say one wrong thing, have people turn on you, then have them view everything you say through that lens. 

The good news is Golf Twitter is not real life, and the vast majority of people still think warm and fuzzy thoughts when they hear Michael Block’s name. The same is true for Rory McIlroy. But the quick flip from the online community made me, for lack of a better word, a bit sad. 

Now, back to the actual golf.

Grillo ends the drought at bouncy Colonial 

We’ll start in Texas at Colonial Country Club, where the grounds crew knew they were blowing up the course on Monday and thus went full YOLO with the setup. The greens, as Michael Kim put it on Twitter, were borderline purple by Sunday afternoon, which is how you got a winning score of eight-under 272—one shot higher than Brooks Koepka’s winning total in Rochester. Emiliano Grillo tried his hardest to blow the Charles Schwab Challenge with a messy double on the 72nd hole, but Adam Schenk left a 20-footer to win just short and threw the Argentine a lifeline. He birdied the second playoff hole for his second PGA Tour win and first in over seven years; few thought the 2016 PGA Tour rookie of the year would take this long to add a second W, especially given how good of an iron player he is, but the putter has been an Achilles heel. 

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“I said it a few times that I wasn't going to retire without winning here, and I'm lucky that I got it done in the last year before the renovations,” Grillo said. “I’m excited. I'm happy. That's the way I can put it.”

Speaking of uncooperative putters… it’s odd to talk negatively about a guy who hasn’t finished worse than 12th in an event since last October, but there’s a distinct pattern developing in Scottie Scheffler’s game: he hits it incredibly well but doesn’t win because he putts like a blind ferret. Scheffler lost over 4.5 shots to the field on the greens this week—second-worst in the field— and still finished just one stinking’ shot out of a playoff. If he putted at a field-average level for the week, he wins by three. Scheffler has lost ground putting in 9 of his last 16 starts. He has lost ground off the tee in 0 of his last 16 measured starts. He has lost ground with his approach play in 0 of his last 16 starts. It’s a highly frustrating experience for Scheffler fans and bettors. 

“Played solid golf again today,” Scheffler said after the round. “Hit it really nice. Seems like the story the last couple days, putts just weren't falling. I made a few today, but overall I probably lost a few strokes on the greens, which is frustrating. For a weekend where I really struggled with the putter, to give myself still a chance to win was nice.” 

It was a breakout week of sorts for England’s Harry Hall, who stands out in any tournament by way of his Ben Hogan hat and skinny mustache. He held a three-shot lead through 36 holes on the strength of a brilliant opening-round 62 but shot five over for the weekend. It was a slow bleed, particularly on Sunday after he started with birdies on his first two holes. He wouldn’t make another for the rest of the round to offset five bogeys including one at 18 after he put his drive in the one place you couldn’t. 

“I don't even know what happened on the last,” he said after pulling his tee shot in the water. “That shouldn't be in play really. Probably a really firm bounce or some adrenaline. Even then, I didn't think that was in play, that hazard.”

A week after missing the cut at Oak Hill, Rickie Fowler took T6 for his fifth top 10 of the season. Max Homa finished T9 for his seventh top-10 finish in his last 11 non-major starts—and yet he still doesn’t have a top 10 in 15 career major championship appearances. 

Brooks’ victory tour rolls on, Varner wins

Brooks Koepka parlayed his PGA Championship victory into an all-time celebration, showing up at two of his beloved Florida Panther’s playoff games—he seems to have single handedly given them “The P’s” nickname—and sneaking in a Miami Heat playoff game in between. He looked…wired in a viral clip, was seen chugging out of the Wanamaker on multiple occasions and just seemed to be enjoying every second of his life. No surprise, then, that he missed his pre-tournament press conference at LIV’s D.C. event due to “plane issues.” 

He did eventually turn up on Thursday, less than 24 hours before his tee time, and was greeted by a welcome celebration that looked like something out of High School Musical. He then shot even par in his opening round, fared a bit better over the weekend, finished 14th out of 48 players and made $330,000 for his troubles. That should cover his post-PGA celebrations, but it’ll probably be close. LIV is perfect for a guy like Brooks, who cares almost exclusively about how many major championships he will win.  

Further up the board, Harold Varner III won his first title on American soil with a one-shot victory over Branden Grace, who’s played well on the LIV circuit while falling out of major championship fields. Varner evaded much of the LIV criticism when he signed because he was so transparent about his motivations: a kid who grew up with not much in North Carolina, he viewed the guaranteed money as a way to provide for future generations. He never made the “grow the game” noises. He kept it real, and he did so again after winning another $4 million on Sunday. 

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Hello, world

Arguably the best amateur golfer since Tiger Woods will make her professional debut this week. Fresh off a second NCAA individual title—the first woman to ever accomplish that feat, and she did it in her first two tries—Rose Zhang will make her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National this week. The inaugural event is being hosted by Michelle Wie, another amateur sensation once upon a time. 

"The endless love, support and inspiration from so many people brought me to this point of my golf career,” Zhang said on Instagram. "From my teammates to my coaches and trainers, to my friends and family -- you have all been integral in my journey, shaping me as a person and player while making sacrifices for my success. You have made it possible for me to pursue my dreams."

  By rule, she forfeited her exemption into the U.S. Open when she turned professional. But the USGA did the absolute no-brainer move in extending her a special exemption to ensure she’ll be at Pebble Beach in July. Zhang held the world No. 1 amateur ranking for nearly three consecutive years and is also the reigning champion of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She turned 20 six days ago. 

Elsewhere…

—Remember Matteo Mannessero? The former teen sensation from Italy, who finished as low amateur at the Open Championship at 16 and won his first European Tour title as a 17-year-old, won his major-tour event in over a decade at the Copenhagen Challenge on the Challenge Tour, the development circuit for the DP World Tour. 

“I came into this week with doubts about my game and I wasn’t feeling great,” Mannassero said after the win. “This golf course isn’t a course that you can afford not to be feeling great but sometimes you grind, and it doesn’t happen and sometimes all of a sudden it clicks.

“Golf is strange and hard to understand at times, and probably we shouldn’t try too hard to understand it.”

Really, really well put. 

—I saw a bit of history myself this week. My home club in New York, Quaker Ridge, has been open for 107 years. I was lucky enough to play alongside Stewart Hagestad this past weekend when he shot an unofficial seven-under 63, the lowest round on record in the club’s history. It’s not the official course record because Stew hit a breakfast ball off the first tee. It’s a par 5, and his first one went in a fairway bunker, and we weren’t thinking about ac course record, so he hit another down the middle. He did not birdie the second ball, so it likely wouldn’t have made any difference. I also knocked away a few tap-ins early in the round because we were playing match-play. He was one over par through 4 then caught fire, birdieing 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 17 and 18. 

So, again, not the official course record, but one hell of a round from a fantastic player. Hagestad is trying to make his fourth straight Walker Cup team this year and represent the U.S. at St. Andrews. 

—Rico Hoey, a three-time All-American at USC, won his first Korn Ferry Tour title at the Knoxville Open. He beat another college phenom, Norman Xiong, by a single shot and broke down in a pool of emotion when the result became final. For as cool as PGA Tour finishes are, nothing changes a golfer’s life quite like winning for the first time on the Korn Ferry Tour. 

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—A very strange and disgusting story out of NCAA regionals, where Oregon’s Greg Solhaug had to withdraw after he impaled his foot on a wooden golf tee that apparently went through his shoe and into his foot. A bunch of questions spring to mind. Chief among them: what kind of fucking golf tee goes through a shoe and punctures a foot? That’s some Oregon Trail shit, not Oregon Ducks. 

—Steve Stricker won his second consecutive senior major at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, his sixth senior major in total after not winning a single major on the regular tour. He’s now won the first two of the year and three of the last seven overall. This was the first major event held by PGA Frisco, the new Gil Hanse track that’s adjacent to the new PGA of America headquarters in Texas and will host the 2025 Women’s PGA Championship and the 2027 PGA Championship.  

—We’ve got another designated event on the PGA Tour this week with the Memorial Tournament, one of the truly iconic legacy events. Billy Horschel is the defending champion and virtually all the top PGA Tour players are teeing it up. 

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