Twilight Tiger, early arrival at St Andrews, Open’s hottest pro

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It’s open house week.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we just flew from Seattle to Edinburgh – and boy are our arms tired. Let us begin!

FIRST FROM THE TEE

Dusk at St Andrews.

Time will tell what turns out to be the pivotal moment of this Open Championship. But for lasting images, it will be hard to beat Tiger Woods and JustinThomas walking the back nine of the Old Course in the fading light on Saturday night, chipping and putting around golf’s most sacred waves.

We’ve gotten used to seeing new sides of Woods over the past few years, but this was our first glimpse of the carefree golfing until it’s so dark you can’t see Woods. Realizing this could be his last chance to be competitive at St Andrews, this version is using each day accordingly. So he and Thomas ended up on the 18th hole in the dark like two kids squeezing every minute out of a Midsummer round.

Thomas posted a photo of the 18th green taken at 10:38pm. A day later him described the experience to gulf channel‘s Ryan Lawner. “It was so sick, man,” Thomas said, explaining what we know to be true: This kind of outing wouldn’t happen anywhere else. “It was really cool.”

Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and about a hundred of their newest friends on the Old Course on Saturday night.

Justin Thomas/Instagram

WINNER

Who won the week?

Xander Schauffele’s swing

How important was it to Xander Schauffele a PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago?

“Yes, just to get over the hump, honestly, it was big. It was a team win and it was incredible to share that with them. We shared other team wins together and it was definitely a kickstarter for me as you can see.”

The reason we could tell is because Schauffele said those words from another winner’s press conference at the Genesis Scottish Open. Between the Travelers and the Scots, Schauffele snuck in a win at the 36-hole JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland. Three weeks, three countries, three trophies. One hell of a way to kick off the Open Championship week.

Carlota Ciganda, Wire to Wire

Spanish Star Carlota Ciganda The final round at the Estrella Damm Ladies Open on Sunday started with four strokes. When she double bogeyed in 9th place, that lead had turned into a one-shot deficit.

Not for long! Ciganda birdie No. 12, Eagled No. 16 and Birdie No. 17 on her way inside, more than enough firepower to offset a couple of bogeys as she totaled 18 under par over four rounds to win by two. The win was her sixth on the LET.

Trey Mullinax, rookie

A victory at the Barbasol sends Trey Mullinax to the Open Championship. It exempts him from the PGA Tour for the 2023-24 season. It is his first career win on the PGA Tour. And it was a hell of an ending too:

You can read more about the story of Mullinax – and his comeback from a freak Pro-Am injury – here.

Jerry Kelly’s little bird

One came in at number 16. Another came in at number 17. Together they sealed the deal for Jerry Kelly‘s second career Senior Players Championship, which he won Sunday at Firestone Country Club after a 68 in the final round. He hit Steve Stricker at two.

Tony Romo, Celebrity Champion

Former Quarterback for the Cowboys Tony Romo emerged from a three-way playoff Joe Pavelski and Mark Mulder at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe to win the high-profile celebrity event. Romo shagged the first and second playoff holes to earn his third title at the event, which he also won in 2018 and 2019, and would have made $125,000 had he not turned amateur. His winnings went to tournament charities instead.

MORE WINNERS

Good times for these guys too.

Justin Thomas’ missed cut

I doubt Thomas had any intention of going 73-77 and missing the cut at the Genesis Scottish Open. But that weekend at St Andrews seemed like a pretty good consolation prize.

Final Open Championship Qualifier

Kurt Kitayama finished second at the Genesis Scottish Open. Brandon Wu and Jamie Donaldson finished T6. As per the Open Qualification Rules, the top three finishers of the tournament who were not already exempted would advance provided they finished in the top 10.

Joohyung Kim, rising star

The newest top 40 player in the world was born in 2002. That would be 20 years old Joohyung Kim, who turned professional at the age of 15 and played on the Korean and Asian tours. On Sunday, he showed his skill at the Renaissance Club, firing a 67 in the final round to finish third solo and earn the most world ranking points of his young career.

Patrick Cantlay, friend and rival

We’re guessing whether Schauffele wins every week Patrick Cantley might stop being happy for him at some point. But not yet. That’s largely because Cantlay is also playing well, with three top-fours and four top-15s in his last six starts, including a T4 on Sunday. It is fitting that the two are now neighbors in the world rankings at places 4 and 5.

NON-WINNER

Maybe next week?

The Near Qualifiers

Young Danish star Rasmus Hojgaard and young American star Alex Kleiney were in position to snag one of those Open Championship qualifying spots until both struggled on Sunday’s brutal par-4 18 course. Both ultimately make 5 seconds to finish a single shot behind Donaldson and Wu.

Jordan Spieth

To be clear: Spieth did exactly what he had to do in the run-up to the Open Championship. He worked his way into the competition and did a lot of magical Spieth stuff. But he had no dream ending for his tournament; He shagged No. 13 to get within a shot of the lead, then promptly double bogeyed on the short par 3 14th. He slipped to T10.

Greg Norman and the R&A

Thereafter, no specific 67-year-old two-time champion will be featured at this week’s Open Championship celebrations Gregory Norman was discharged from the R&A.

Who wins here? No one! Had Norman decided to perform, he would have been a bystander. but Not Including him is a concrete reminder that the rift in professional golf has now engulfed its most famous and powerful institutions.

WHAT WE SEE

Pros show up early.

How early do major championships start these days?! Our GOLF.com Scotland office sighted JustinRose I played a round on the Old Course a few weeks ago, which didn’t seem particularly crazy – scouting missions to key championship venues are common. but Phil Mickelson last surfaced at St Andrews Thursday. Woods and Thomas went 18 each on Saturday and Sunday. Several LIV defectors including DustinJohnson and Bryson DeChambeau also showed up early and made the most of their exclusion from the Genesis Scottish Open.

What do we make of it? Not much, except for the obvious: this week means a lot. Whoever wins will own an Old Course Open, and they will own their 150th Open title, and they will own a hard-fought win over the competition that’s been here all week and more.

WHAT WE HEAR

A solid, fast St. Andrews.

Absent high winds or severe weather, many wonder if St Andrews will prove too easy a test of the modern game. A rebuttal: who cares? According to everyone on site, the course is firm and fast, a combination that requires both creativity and precision. Wherever the final score ends in terms of par, the course looks perfect. We can assume that whoever wins has most effectively negotiated a proper test.

NEWS FROM SEATTLE

Monday Finish HQ.

GOLF’s Seattle office is moving to St. Andrews for this week, which is a joy. I’ve never been to Scotland. I was at an Open Championship in Portrush in 2019 and it was a smashing success with one exception: I contracted horrible food poisoning on Saturday night which spoiled my joy a bit Shane Lowry‘s Sunday triumph. I hope I can avoid that this time.

WHAT’S NEXT

3 things to watch this week.

1st Gait by Tiger Woods.

We’ll get another reminder of Woods’ new normal this week, which means a mix of good and bad. If you’re a pessimist you’d say he hasn’t looked overly sprightly in his practice laps so far walking around St Andrews. But if you’re an optimist, you’d point out that he just walked 36 holes in less than 24 hours and still ended up swinging. His approach to this week is already different than his approach to the Masters and PGA – we’ll see how it works this time.

2. PGA Tour LIV Dynamics

Overall, I expect pros of all tours will get along just fine. This is the golf path. But meanwhile there has been tough talking on both sides and some pretty clear lines have been drawn in the sand. So it will be interesting to see how the R&A handles factions and how chatters affect player dynamics early in the week. This is high stakes stuff, after all.

3. Xander Schauffele, hot hand.

Entering the Masters, Scottie Scheffler’s form seemed too good to be true – but then he won. Could Schauffele be doing the same this week, while banishing talk of his lack of college degrees? Or did it peak a week early? There’s only one way to find out…

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com editor

Dylan Dethier is senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. A Williamstown, Mass. native, he joined GOLF in 2017 after two years of tussling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he studied English, and is the author of 18 in Americawhich describes the year he lived off his car as an 18-year-old and played a round of golf in every state.

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