Let it be Lexi

The relentlessly consistent Lexi Thompson (68-67-69-69) won the KEB Hana Championship in South Korea over the weekend. But Lydia Ko (see below) has the lead in the Race to the CME Globe as LPGA pros near the home stretch of the season points championship.

Thompson helped herself, but maybe not enough, as she bumped up a notch to No. 4 in the Race.

Ko is so not silly

They used to call it the “Silly Season,” those autumn months when the PGA Tour opened its purses in balmy locales to players and events  that, however lucrative, didn’t count for much.

You could still call it the Silly Season, when you look at the field in this post-major, post-FedEx stretch of tournaments, beginning this week with the Frys.com Open. But wait … McIlroy is in it? There are other major winners sprinkled in, too, and the winner’s share, if not top dollar, is anything but silly — $1.08 million. These days, the Frys is the official opening event of the 2015-16 tour season, and there are FedEx Cup points to be had.

Brendan Steele has a two-shot lead heading to the weekend after opening rounds of 63 and 70.

The LPGA is looking silly right now — as in ridiculously good. Sung Hyung Park shot an opening-round 62 at the Keb Hana Bank Championship in her native South Korea, the low round of the 2015 LPGA season. She ballooned a little in Round 2 with a 74, but she sits just two  shots back of leader Lydia Ko (65-69) at the turn to the weekend.

They’re still counting points on the women’s top tour — still playing for something. Ko, No. 2 in the world, leads the season-long Race to the CME Globe standings with 4,183 points, ahead of Inbee Park at 3,188 and Stacy Lewis at 3,073. It’s silly, really completely ludicrous, how good Lydia Ko is at age 18.

No, the Ryder Cup is next year

TACOMA, Wash. — They say the greens are PGA Tour-caliber …  and “they” are Tour players. “We” are not, so our first round at historic Tacoma Country Club could be brutal … or it could be amazing.

Every year, the Northwest Golf Media Association has a year-end banquet at a course the average dumb shit in the membership would never play otherwise. Last year it was at Chambers Bay. It’s been at Everett Country Club, and Seattle Golf Club … nice courses.

Nicklaus designed a course in Incheon City, Korea, which the NWGMA will almost certainly never hit it up for the year-end banquet. But just in case it does, you can get a sneak preview this weekend on your television set when the Presidents Cup settles in there for four days of exhibition golf. It’s not the Ryder Cup.

The waiting months

Jordan Spieth is rich, so is his caddy (appreciably less, but not bad for a looper), and the world now moves on to the Presidents Cup, which is not the Ryder Cup but has a little more zing this time because Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will be playing for the other guys.

Not much else going on, unless you think golf can exist outside the major tours … well, hells yes it can.

For devotees of the Grey Goatee Golf Association (and they are legion), this is the season of discontent, of restlessness and ennui, of no tournaments for several months, long months, until the 3GA springs back to action (gently, as befitting our demographic) in April, in the springtime, where all things are possible and few are realized, but we’re playing golf in the El Nino sunshine, golf, in the sunshine, which ought to scare us but somehow doesn’t, because we’re playing golf in the sunshine with our friends and other old guys, playing golf, the all-absorbing damnedest damn game,

The 3GA Tour and the other one

Last weekend, the PGA Tour yielded the world golf stage to the Grey Goatee Golf Association (3GA), as well it should.

Kevin Patterson, a big kid out of Longview, Wash., earned the coveted Green Cardigan for season supremacy on the 3GA Tour. The enigmatic Patterson had nothing to say afterward, though the world golf press peppered him with questions. Such as:

“Is there really polo at Tumwater National Golf and Polo? If not, why not?”

“What club did you use on that 5-iron into No. 7?”

Henrik Stenson, a big Swede out of Sweden, wasn’t in the field at Tumwater but emerged in Atlanta today to shoot 7-under and take a two-stroke lead in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Is there polo there?

The 3GA: It stops here

TUMWATER, Wash. — Here in the valley of the shadow of the brewery, so near Grey Goatee Global HQ that we can feel its hum, we go to battle, steady in the scrutiny of the golf universe.  We are the Grey Goatee Golf Association (3GA) Tour, and this is our time.

We’ve gone our way quietly through five tournaments leading to our finale grande at Tumwater National Golf and Polo. But now, we cinch tight our Footjoys, accessorize boldly against every article of our golf haberdashery, and emerge gleaming into the full light of a sporting Saturday.

Our quest is for the Green Cardigan, revered like no other green garment in the game. Yeah, and we got a  little money in play, we talk some shit, we drink some … it’s what we do.

A vision in orange

The snapback cap is and always will be dorky. even on King Felix, but it’s hard to call Ricky Fowler a dork after he won his second PGA Tour tournament of the year Sept. 6, at a time on the calendar when any victory counts for a lot.



The kid can play, a goddamn vision in orange, and how cool would it be if he jumped into the fray and made it a Big Four instead of a Big Three (McIlroy, Spieth, Day). It could be like a Big Five, with the Woods one in on it all, which again begs the question of whatever happened  to Dustin Johnson, anyway? Right now, it’s an easy answer: still the fittest best-connected longest-driving least articulate best player who’s never won a major or much of anything else.

The big tour’s big boys return to goffin’ Sept 17 at the BMW Championship. They had until 2 p.m. GGMT (Grey Goatee Mean Time) last Friday to commit to playing.It’s a good field, with all of the above and Billy Horschel, too.



Yeah, Horschel. Got lost in the shuffle at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs last year. and that’s after he won it. Won the $10 million. Won two straight tournaments at the end of the playoffs, and he was called a symptom of the worst aspects of the FedEx scoring system. He was called an opportunist, plain lucky, because he won at the right time.

Grey Goatee Nation doesn’t call him any kind of goddamn symptom. We call him a money player.

The fall sport

This year, at this time of year, the buzz on the PGA Tour is not about the majors (so yesterday) or the Presidents Cup (so not the Ryder Cup). It’s about the FedEx Cup playoffs and the $10 million prize and whether it’s possible to think of derailing Jason Day, the Best Player on the Planet today if it’s not Jordan Spieth (Jordan who?) or Rory McIlroy and whatever happened to Dustin Johnson anyway?

Nobody understands the FedEx scoring system, but there does seem to be a way that a player could win it by playing well at the right time.

I remember a guy, not that long ago, Woods, I think. Tended to contend. Won a few. Not in the conversation this fall. They say he’s working on his game. Somewhere.

Mathematically validated: Varner III is in The 25

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tim Herron’s chunked chip on 18 yesterday at Pumpkin Ridge had immediate consequences and others he couldn’t have known about.

Tim Herron’s chunked chip on 18 had immediate consequences for Harold Varner III, adopted son of Grey Goatee Nation, and he couldn’t have cared less about the rest.

Harold Varner III, shown in action at Pumpkin Ridge's Witch Hollow yesterday, will take his swings next year on the PGA Tour. Photo by Scott

Harold Varner III, shown in action at Pumpkin Ridge’s Witch Hollow yesterday, will take his swings next year on the PGA Tour.
Photo by Scott H. Bisch

When Herron plopped it into the tall grass short left of Witch Hollow’s 18th green, it meant he wouldn’t be making up a three-shot deficit on Dicky Pride with one dramatic chip-in.

For Varner, who was standing nearby, the miracle-that-wasn’t for Herron was the miracle-that-was — a mathematical miracle, because 25 stayed 25 and didn’t change no matter what was roiling up and down above and below. Note: do not expect an explanation of the math. No human being could explain it.

The 25-year-old Varner entered the WinCo Foods Portland Open at No. 25 on The 25 – the top 25 money-winners on the Web.com Tour — and needed to stay there to earn his PGA Tour Card. Varner shot one-under 70 Sunday, and then waited it out … until the final group of the day and Herron’s third shot.

The non-mathematical way of telling it: if it had gone in, AND Pride had taken bogey, it would have meant a playoff — and more waiting for Varner.

Dicky Pride (right) outlasted Tim Herron to win the WinCo. Photo by Scott H. Bisch

Dicky Pride (right) outlasted Tim Herron to win the WinCo.
Photo by Scott H. Bisch

Herron would have needed to win the playoff to bump Varner out of The 25 … but he chunked, Pride made a scrambling par, and … the math works.

Pride, 46, who hadn’t won a professional tournament since 1994, moved from 4oth all the way to No. 5 with the $144,000 winner’s check … and next year will get to chase purses on the PGA Tour — where the math is the same but the numbers are a lot bigger.

Bubble wrap, Day 2

PORTLAND, Ore. — Life is cruel out on the bubble … you stand on a thin membrane with nowhere to hide and a long way to fall … and then you have to try to play golf.

For two of Grey Goatee Nation’s adopted sons, the second day of the WinCo Foods Portland Open — cut day — was unkind. One, at least, is not mathematically eliminated from The 25, we think, but remember the math is twisty and not meant for human heads.

Kevin Tway

Kevin Tway

Rob Oppenheim, who began the tournament No. 24 on The 25, missed the cut, following an opening 71 with a 70 today, one stroke over the cut line on two-under 140. He’ll have no chance on the weekend to add to his $160,158.71 winnings this year — and plenty of guys behind him willing to step on his head and assume his place in The 25 and the PGA Tour card that accrues.

Jorge Fernandez-Valdes never got it going, shooting 76-75 in the two days, and he’s not in: he’s 27th on The 25. He’s out — I can do that math. Sometimes we like our adopted sons to play better.

Two other stepchildren of The Nation are alive, and ready to play through the rain in North Plains (address of Pumpkin Ridge’s Witch Hollow Course) on the weekend.

Harold Varner III — the bubble-est bubble guy in The 25 at Twenty-Five On the Number — made the cut with a Friday 69, which got him to 3-under par, one under the cut line. At least he can wear a glove on one of his sweaty palms and won’t have to worry about what to do with his hands while he frets over the guys stalking him from behind.

Kevin Tway, No. 26 on The List, followed a Thursday 66 with a Friday 71, three below the cut line. He’s playing the weekend, but he needs to make money — about $12,000 to supplant Oppenheim and $10,000 to take out Varner … and that doesn’t even figure in all the other guys below him who could make big jumps and blow into The 25 and bump other guys down.

I warn you, brothers and sisters of Grey Goatee Nation, do not do the math. Do not even try.

The 25 happiest golfers on the planet

PORTLAND, Ore. – The newest adopted sons of Grey Goatee Nation will be in Portland this weekend, four players on or around the bubble for The 25. If you’re in The 25 after the Web.com Tour’s WinCo Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge, you earn PGA Tour privileges next year. So what’s the difference? Sort of like Timex and Rolex.

Don’t try to do the math — it will make your brains hurt. Who’s in, with no fear of being bumped? Maybe No. 16, or 17. Somewhere in there. Anybody, just about, who wins the $144,000 champion’s check here will get in.

Grey Goatee Nation is tracking four guys — Nos. 24, 25, 26 and 27. They’ve got something on the line in Portland — that’s a no-brainer.

No. 24 is Rob Oppenheim, of Salem, Mass., a relative old guy by Web.com standards, who’s won $160,158. He’s in, but he can’t feel comfortable. He shot even-par 71 yesterday, nine shots off the first-day pace set by Curtis Thompson’s course-record 62.

At 25 is Harold Varner III, a 25-year-0ld from Akron, Ohio ($158,762). He shot 70 Thursday.

Out, but knockin’, is the No. 26 guy, Kevin Tway, 27 years old from Edmond, Okla. ($149, 728). Win a chunk more this weekend, he could be in — he started with a solid 66.

No. 27, and on the hunt, is Jorge Fernandez-Valdes, 23, from Cordoba, Argentina. He’s won $148,581, but an opening 76 makes his score today critical. Miss the cut, he misses The 25.