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Monday Rap: The Grayson Murray Tragedy, Lexi Thompson's Shock Announcement And Richard Bland's (shhhh) Victory

We begin, of course, with the horrific tragedy. Grayson Murray took his own life on Saturday morning just hours after withdrawing from the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge with just two holes remaining in his second round. Murray, who was just 30 years old, had struggled with alcohol and mental health issues for virtually the entirety of his golf career. He seemed to have turned a corner and turned his life around; after he won his second PGA Tour event at the Sony Open in January he spoke openly and honestly about his demons and the role his faith and his support system had played in helping him through the dark times. 

For his story to end the way it did is nothing short of heartbreaking, and the awful news shook the golf world to its core. It's a bit of a traveling circus out on tour; you travel from city to city but you see the same people in each. Players, caddies, coaches, tour staffers, media people. Everyone knows one another, and losing one of our own hurts deeply. It's another reminder that no level of professional success or financial stability can insulate someone from internal battles. At 30, Murray was a multiple time winner on the best golf tour on the planet. He'd made $2.47 million already this year. He made the cut in the Players, the Masters and the PGA Championship. He had a top 10 earlier this month in a signature event. Hell, he shot two-under 68 on Friday, the day before he passed. And yet still, underneath it all, he suffered. He was in pain. 

There is no good news, no silver lining after something as harrowing as this. All we can collectively do is try, as Murray's parents called for in their statement, to be nice to one another. That's not to say people weren't nice to Murray. It's not suggesting that if someone were nicer to him this wouldn't have happened. But it's the absolute least we can do, right? To go out of our way to make someone feel loved and valued? What other choice do we have?

When something like this happens we're hit like a ton of bricks with the realization that at the end of the day, beyond your job and your bank account and anything else tangible, what truly leaves a lasting impact is the way you make others feel. Harry Higgs said it best after he won the Korn Ferry Tour event on Sunday. 

"This golf stuff, and the result, it's lovely, sure...but it's just not that meaningful...I would challenge everybody here, and I'm going to do this myself as well. Each day, say something nice to someone you love and also make it a point to say something nice to somebody you do not even know. The world is a very difficult place and only getting more difficult. 

"Everyone here could be a difference. The difference. Brighten up somebody's day, it could mean the world."

We'll continue now with a recap of some golf things that, as Higgs said, really aren't that meaningful. But we'll do so keeping in mind that commitment to be kind to one another. 

Davis Riley dominates, Scottie reaches 10 in a row

Sunday's final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge felt truly meaningless in the aftermath of the Murray news, but his parents made it clear that Grayson would've wanted the tournament to continue. So it did. Davis Riley began the day with a three-shot lead over world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and held steady on a brutally difficult and windy day at the renovated Colonial Country Club, which needs some more time for the fairway grass to settle in but was mostly well received by tour players. 

It's Riley's second win on the PGA Tour but the first on his own ball—he and Nick Hardy teamed up to win last year's Zurich Classic. Riley, 27, has one of the prettier swings on tour but hadn't posted a single top-10 finish in 14 starts this season before last week. 

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"I've been kind of looking to try to get some momentum this year," Riley said after the victory. "It's been a slower start to the year than I've been wanting and obviously this helps a lot, catapulting me in the right direction, and like you said, being in the field for the remaining two Signature Events will be huge and hopefully I'm looking forward to those as good opportunities to make a push towards the TOUR Championship and, yeah, I'm over the moon and excited for the rest of the season.

Scheffler was +3 through 10 holes for the day but played his remaining eight in -2 to finish in a tie for second with Keegan Bradley. One shot further back was Collin Morikawa, who now has four top-10 finishes in his last five starts (including the Masters and PGA Championship) after reuniting with coach Rick Sessinghaus. 

"I owe a lot of (the recent success) to Rick. Obviously, joining back up with him, it's been awesome. It's not like we've done anything new, it's just awesome being able to talk. What happened yesterday with Grayson is obviously very saddening, and it's nice to have people to talk to and just be able to let things out and just be who you are." 

Scheffler's T2 finish was his 10th consecutive top-10, a feat not even equaled by Tiger Woods during his 2000 season. Speaking of which…through 12 events, Scheffler's 2024 season is holding up rather well when compared to Woods' 2000, widely considered the best season any professional golfer's ever had. Through his first 12 official PGA Tour events of 2000 Woods has five wins, 10 top-10 finishes, a major championship victory and a 5th-place finish in the other major. Through his first 12 official PGA Tour events of 2024, Scheffler has four wins, 11 top-10 finishes, a major championship victory and a T8 finish in the other major. Of course, comparison of eras is never apples-to-apples, and it's true that Scheffler's competition has been somewhat weakened by LIV Golf. It's also worth noting that Woods kept the pedal to the metal beyond just the first 12—he added four more victories, including the year's final two majors, in his last eight starts of the year. He finished with, in 20 starts, nine victories and three major championships. Scheffler will need to play as well, if not better, for his final eight-ish starts to have his season stand up with the iconic Woods 2000. But through 12 events, he's keeping pace. 

Nelly chases history, Lexi announces the beginning of the end

This is the biggest week in women's professional golf: The U.S. Women's Open, being played at the recently renovated Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. Much of the pre-tournament attention centered around world No. 1 Nelly Korda, and rightfully so—she's won six of her last seven starts and won the first major of the year at the Chevron in Houston. The Korda coverage has also come with Caitlin Clark undertones; there's an ongoing discussion in media circles as to the role Korda should be playing in the promotion of women's golf. Shane Ryan of Golf Digest wrote a detailed piece on the conundrum Korda's facing, where some feel like nothing she does is ever enough. It's a bit of an unfair expectation to think that just because she's the best in the world that she has some sort of moral obligation to relentlessly promote herself and her sport. But Clark's impact on women's basketball has prompted some self-reflection across women's athletics, and while commercials and social media certainly wouldn't hurt, the best thing Korda can do for herself and her sport is to continue delivering on the biggest stages. She's got the chance to do that this week. 

Then came the  announcement that Lexi Thompson will retire as a full-time tour player at the end of this season. It's somewhat poetic that her announcement comes ahead of her 18th U.S. Open appearance before she turns 30. Yes, Thompson—who broke the record for youngest LPGA Tour winner, a record that's since been eclipsed—has lived in the spotlight since her teenage years and never seemed to fully embrace the limelight. (There are some similarities with Korda there). She won her first and only mahjor as a 19-year-old and hasn't won on the LPGA Tour in nearly five years as she's struggled with a nagging hand injury. Those who cover the women's game closer than I do said they weren't so shocked to see the news. 

"Not surprised by the Lexi Thompson retirement news, but I am surprised by the timing," wrote Beth Ann Nichols, my go-to on all things LPGA, on X. "Never thought she'd play past 30 out here. And the hand injury has been really tough. 

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Added Alan Shipnuck: "She has always had a complicated relationship with stardom; can't think of another to player for whom the game seemed like such a burden. She's gonna love retirement."

Thompson spoke with media on Tuesday afternoon at Lancaster. 

“I’m the last one to want a pity party thrown for me," she said, "but a lot of people don’t understand what we go through.”

That reads like someone tired of living on the road, tired of all that comes with life in the public eye.

Bland wins the Senior PGA, much to the Tour's chagrin

It wasn't so long ago that the golf world couldn't get enough of the Richard Bland story. The ultimate grinder, he'd finally secured his breakthrough on the world stage when he won his first European Tour title in his 478th start at the age of 48. One month later, without a hat sponsor, he held a share of the 36-hole U.S. Open lead at Torrey Pines and was the darling of the golf media. 

A year later, Bland cashed in on his newfound golfing relevance by inking a deal with LIV Golf. He has mostly faded from memory since; he's been between 20th and 25th on LIV's point standings in each of his three seasons, and while he's made serious money ($9.8 million since joining) he hasn't won and thus hasn't made significant headlines for his on-course play since the move. 

Until this week. Despite being denied entry into the 2023 Senior Open Championship due to outstanding fines he owes the European Tour, the PGA of America honored Bland's exemption into the Senior PGA Championship he earned by winning on the DP World Tour within the last three years. He won the tournament at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Michigan by three shots, though you might not have heard about it. That was mostly by design. The PGA Tour hardly mentioned the victory on their website—and, more notably, are not giving him the one-year exemption on the PGA Tour Champions circuit that major winners usually get. 

“In spite of the win, because of competing in an unauthorized event by the PGA Tour, [Bland] will be ineligible for Tour-affiliated events. The PGA of America, USGA and R&A each operate based on criteria of their own.”

As such, Bland will receive entry into next year's Senior PGA Championship (run by the PGA of America, which has been the least anti-LIV with its rules and exemptions into tournaments) and the U.S. Senior Open. But with the PGA Tour? No dice. Nearly a full year after that Framework Agreement and we're still actively engaged in this tiresome War of the Tours…

Elsewhere…

—As mentioned previously, Harry Higgs won on the Korn Ferry Tour this past weekend—it was his second consecutive victory and assures a return to the PGA Tour in 2025. In this latest playoff at the Visit Knoxville Open he defeated Frankie Capan III, who shot 58 at the Texas Rangers Golf Club just a few weeks ago. 

Both Higgs and Tim Widing of Sweden are now one victory away from earning the rare Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour, which is only awarded if a player wins three times in one Korn Ferry Tour season. The last player to receive that promotion was Mito Pereira in 2021. 

—After newly released video last week by the Louisville Police Department seemed to corroborate Scottie Scheffler's telling of the events that led to his arrest, Scheffler's lawyer Steve Romines is scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow to address the ongoing case. Louisville's mayor and chief of police did not give any indication during last week's press conference that they would be dropping charges against Scheffler. Romines has maintained throughout that Scheffler did nothing wrong and that he and his client are not interested in any sort of settlement or plea agreement. "Either the charges will be dropped," Romines said last week, "or we'll go to trial." Scheffler is not playing this week's RBC Canadian Open but is schedule to play next week at the Memorial. He's due in court in Louisville for an arraignment on June 3, which is Monday of Memorial week. 

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—Georgia Tech sophomore Hiroshi Tai won the NCAA individual championship at Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif. Tai posted -3 early on a difficult afternoon for scoring and watched as multiple blue-chip players failed to equal his number. That included Gordon Sargent, the Vanderbilt junior who's already guaranteed a PGA Tour card whenever he turns pro through the PGA Tour Accelerated program but recently opted to return for his senior year. Sargent finished one shot behind after lipping out a putt on his final hole. Ben James of Virginia, who was penalized earlier in the week for slow play, also finished one back, as did four others. 

The top eight teams now advance to a single-elimination match play bracket. They are seeded by their finish in the stroke-play portion of the competition:

1. Illinois vs. 8. Georgia Tech
2. Vanderbilt vs. 7. Ohio State
3. Virginia vs. 6. Auburn
4. North Carolina vs. 5. Florida State

You can catch the action on Golf Channel. 

—Barstool Golf athlete Alistair Docherty is in the field at this week's RBC Canadian Open thanks to his T2 finish at the Myrtle Beach Classic. Docherty, who wears Barstool clothing during competition, has competed on the Korn Ferry Tour for each of the past three years before getting a sponsor's exemption into the Myrtle Beach event and posting by far the best finish of his career. Docherty amassed 135 points on the "shadow" points list for the FedEx Cup; he doesn't officially get the points because he's not a PGA Tour member, but if he amasses more points through the shadow list than the 125th-ranked player on the actual FedEx Cup points list by the end of the fall season then he will ensure some status on the PGA Tour for next year. His 135 points would rank 144th on tour this year, so it's imperative he bank some more with a solid finish in Canada this week. A top-10 finish would ensure he gets into another PGA Tour event as his top-10 at the Myrtle Beach got him in this week. If he doesn't finish in the top 10, he'd need to either Monday qualify or get another sponsor's invite to play in more PGA Tour events this season. 

Docherty is currently 96th in points on the Korn Ferry Tour with 15 events left on the season. The top 30 players in the season-ending rankings are promoted to the PGA Tour, while the top 75 keep their playing privileges on the Korn Ferry Tour. Docherty cannot earn any points for the KFT standings by playing on the PGA Tour. 

—Scottie Scheffler's lead over No. 2 Xander Schauffele in the FedEx Cup is currently larger than Schauffele's lead over No. 22 Sepp Straka. Just felt like information worth passing along.

Until next week,

Dan