Hudson Swafford hangs on for win No. 2, Will Zalatoris keeps rolling, Mike Davis steps down, Jared Wolfe moves a step closer to the instant promotion and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
1. Hudson Swafford made a birdie on the 71st hole to capture the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, his second career title on the PGA Tour.
TAKEAWAY: It was Swafford’s first victory since the 2017 American Express, but it’s been a difficult few years. The 33-year-old Georgia product has been beset by injuries, first by a rib ailment that knocked him out 10 weeks during the 2018 season. Just as he was beginning to regain his confidence, he battled persistent pain in his foot. Turns out he had a broken bone in the bottom of his foot that had to be removed, costing him even more time.
That’s why Swafford was playing this season on a major medical extension, and he had only a few starts left to regain his status. He fretted about the future, but his sports psychologist told him: “You know your game’s good. You know your stuff’s good. It’s going to show up. Just commit to the process and have fun and see what happens.”
Trailing by two at the start of the final round in the Dominican, Swafford led by four shots at one point before he started frittering away the lead. He made double bogey on the 13th hole and dropped another shot on 15. When he stood on the 17th tee, he was tied for the lead with Mackenzie Hughes and Tyler McCumber, who was in the house at 17 under.
That’s when Swafford hit a perfect 6-iron to 10 feet and poured in the putt to go one ahead. After a misjudged lag putt on the final green, he nailed the clutch 8-footer for par to secure the one-shot victory.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Corales was a full-point FedExCup event, with winner invitations to the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters and PGA Championship.
2. Up-and-coming stud Will Zalatoris kept rolling, closing with 65 to tie for eighth in Punta Cana.
TAKEAWAY: So impressive was Zalatoris’ tie for sixth at the U.S. Open that he was actually the oddsmakers’ favorite in the Dominican, despite holding only a Korn Ferry Tour card. His Sunday 65 was the low round of the day and allowed Zalatoris to soar up the board, inside the top 10 – that’ll automatically get him into this week’s Sanderson Farms.
Though he’s admittedly gassed, Zalatoris knows that he has to keep this hot stretch going. Now with 185 non-member FedExCup points, he's closing in on special temporary membership, which would allow him to earn unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the 2020-21 season. As the top points earner so far on the Korn Ferry circuit, he’s already locked up a PGA Tour card for next season but won’t be a full-time member until fall 2021.
“At this stage of where I’m at, I can’t take a week off,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll keep on running.”
3. USGA CEO Mike Davis announced he’ll step down from his position by the end of 2021, saying that he wants to “pursue a life-long passion for golf course design and construction.”
TAKEAWAY: Davis’ announcement comes on the heels of a successful U.S. Open, when the USGA preserved its crown jewel by managing a pandemic in one of the country’s original hotspots and then presenting a difficult, thorough test at Winged Foot.
Davis' legacy will be complicated, of course. He stepped down voluntarily as the USGA’s setup czar after enduring a torrent of criticism, and the governing bodies are currently in the midst of a protracted distance report after finally acknowledging that significant, unchecked gains off the tee are detrimental to the game’s future.
The USGA hopes to have Davis' successor in place by next May, before the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Jaime Diaz has more on Davis’ decision here.
As for Davis’ next venture, he’s teaming with golf course designer Tom Fazio II – whose father, Jim, and uncle, Tom, are both prominent golf course architects – to create the Fazio & Davis Golf Design team. That career change was easy fodder for a few pros on Twitter:
Stop it. Dude can’t even setup a venue let alone design one— Greg Chalmers (@GregChalmersPGA) September 22, 2020
He knows what not to do by now so he may be ok. 🤔😳— Rod Pampling (@RodPampling) September 22, 2020
THIS WEEK'S AWARD WINNERS ...
One Step Closer: Jared Wolfe. The journeyman pro (who during the pandemic break took a job with a medical sales company) earned his second Korn Ferry Tour title of the season. His victory at the Wichita Open means that, like Davis Riley, he's one win away from an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour.
Tweet of the Week: Phil Mickelson. As if his Winged Foot performance wasn’t humbling enough ...
Just when I think I’ve arrived ( I was the answer to tonight’s final Jeopardy question) I realize I still have a ways to go (they all got it wrong ):— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) September 26, 2020
Twice as Nice: John Catlin. The American won for the second time in three weeks on the European Tour, going on a late birdie run to steal the Irish Open and soar inside the top 100 in the world for the first time. He's also the first American to win two European Tour events in the same month since Phil Mickelson in 2013.
Dinner and a Moo-vie?: Irish Open. With the European Tour event closed to spectators, a couple still got to watch some golf, setting up some chairs outside a fence beside the 14th hole ... alongside some new friends.
Don’t Look Now, But ...: James Hahn. For the first time in 186 career starts, the 38-year-old Hahn has recorded back-to-back top-10s, following up his T-9 two weeks ago in Napa with another in the Dominican Republic. He’s playing this season on a major medical extension.
Round of Applause: Mike Whan. Check out this incredible gesture from the LPGA commish, who is rightly saluting the career of my colleague, Randall Mell. Here’s what Mell replied to Whan on Twitter: “I scrutinized your tour as aggressively as I did any beat I’ve ever covered, to your discomfort at times, I’m sure, but it speaks volumes how honorably you shined under this probing journalistic light!”
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Denny McCarthy. Finished fourth at Corales in 2018 and was the top putter on the PGA Tour last season, gaining nearly a stroke per round on the field. But he couldn’t fill it up last week, never taking fewer than 28 putts, failing to break 68 in any round and finishing in a tie for 41st. Sigh.