Mad golfers, bad weather, Paul Azinger’s messy exit | Monday Finish

The Monday Finish returns to recap the Cognizant, LIV, Azinger, Pelley, McIlroy and more with an all-new segment called Glad, Sad and Mad.

The post Mad golfers, bad weather, Paul Azinger’s messy exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

The Monday Finish returns to recap the Cognizant, LIV, Azinger, Pelley, McIlroy and more with an all-new segment called Glad, Sad and Mad.

The post Mad golfers, bad weather, Paul Azinger’s messy exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re rolling up our pant legs, wading into the mud and getting back to work. To the golf news!


Hopefully you noticed we were gone.

After a few wild weeks of paternity leave (shoutout to my new child) we’re* back at the laptop and folks, it seems like men’s professional golf is still in a pretty weird spot.

The PGA Tour crowned a worthy winner but slogged through another strange weather-delayed weekend and finished up on Monday morning which, despite the name of this column, always promises a juiceless finish. LIV played on in Saudi Arabia in front of negligible crowds and Anthony Kim, whose debut performance headlined the event, (understandably) finished in last place by 11. As the two circuits continue to jockey for the inside track to global golf domination, it’s pretty easy to shrug from the sidelines. Hopefully I feel differently this time next week. But it’s good to be back in the mix!

*I always use “we” in this column because it feels more communal, like there’s an entire team at the Monday Finish and I’m just like, the bureau chief. It’s just me. But we’re all about transparency here at the MF.


Who won the week?

Austin Eckroat was clearly the best player at the Cognizant Classic, where he finished off a classy final-round four-under 67 on Monday morning to blitz the South Florida field by three shots and claim his first PGA Tour win.

Hannah Green won the HSBC Women’s World Championship, making three consecutive birdies to finish — including a 27-footer at the last — to edge Celine Boutier in Singapore for her fourth career win.

Joaquin Niemann won LIV’s event in Saudi Arabia, cementing his status as the circuit’s hottest player with a four-shot win and making his Augusta National exemption seem like a no-brainer.


Pro golf has everybody feeling something. Here’s a new segment ft. three emotions.


3. Jake Knapp, like the rest of us internet users, brushed past whatever positive feedback he received last week and laser-focused on the negative stuff.

“It’s funny, like, a lot of people say ‘don’t read the comments’ and ‘don’t worry what people are saying,’ but I know people are ripping me apart for my performance on Sunday and the amount of fairways I missed,” Knapp said over the weekend. That was in reference to last week’s win at the Mexico Open, where Knapp claimed his maiden Tour win despite hitting just two of 14 fairways on Sunday. I thought the fairway thing was mostly just a fun fact; I must have missed any Knapp-related criticism. But it’s clear that Knapp bundled the comments of various haters into a chip he placed squarely on his shoulder entering Cognizant week.

And it worked! He finished T4, outplaying Rory McIlroy from within his own group and making a run at the top of the leaderboard with a final-round 66.

“It’s not that I need to prove anything to anybody or anything like that, but I feel like I can play well on any style of golf course,” he said. “It just feels good to come out here and validate that.”

2. Min Woo Lee logged the best finish of his young PGA Tour life, finishing T2 at the Cognizant thanks to a 66-67 weekend and earning his way into this week’s Bay Hill Signature Event in the process.

Lee said he noticed his manager Brett signed him up for the event on Sunday, just in case he secured the top-three finish he’d need to get in.

“I was thinking about it coming down the stretch. Obviously thinking about the win, but yeah, was a really proud moment today,” he said.

1. Erik van Rooyen left Saturday’s third round frustrated after shooting just one-under-par 70.

“I was slightly crabby, and my caddie tells me, ‘Bro, you don’t know what’s going to happen, you might birdie the first seven tomorrow,’” van Rooyen said later.

He didn’t birdie his first seven. But he did birdie his first six and eight of his first 10, catapulting himself into the outright lead. He’d eventually get chased down, but life is still pretty good for van Rooyen: he spent Monday morning at the star-studded Seminole Pro-Member, which seems like a pretty good spot to celebrate a final-round 63.


3. Keith Pelley, departing head of the DP World Tour, assessing the chances of the circuit retaining its top talent.

Pelley has faced criticism for giving PGA Tour cards to the top 10 finishers on the DP World Tour at the end of a given season but defended the move in an interview with the Times, arguing there’s no way for the tour to secure exclusive rights to its top players vs. the PGA Tour. “It’s not reality,” he said. “The players want to get to America. We’re not in the 1970s and the 1980s.”

In fairness, “sad” isn’t how Pelley described the state of the DP World Tour nor his tenure there. He’s proud of his accomplishments, he said, including that provision. He’s proud to have secured the financial futures of the tour and its top players going forward. But it’s easy to see how fans of the former European Tour would read it differently.

The interview also revealed Pelley’s resignation to the fact that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are unlikely to reach a deal with the PIF and LIV anytime soon; while he initially pinpointed the Masters as a benchmark, he backed off from a specific date.

“Whether it be in six months, a year, two years or 10 years, I think people are coming to the realization that a collective product is in the best interest of global golf,” he said. “It is the only way growth and prize funds continue at this level. It is inevitable.”

2. The PGA Tour’s weatherman — and its TV ratings people — are likely feeling a bit glum coming off the last month of competition. The Signature Event at Pebble Beach proved a Sunday bust when it got rained out and reduced to a 54-hole competition. The biggest party in golf at the WM Phoenix Open included significant rain delays, creating a disjointed tournament that finished during the Super Bowl. This week’s Monday Finish™ was just the latest headache for a Tour that could use a smooth stretch.

“I feel like with the rain delays, I feel like that’s nearly happened every week so far. Obviously the weather hasn’t been cooperative while we’ve played,” said Min Woo Lee.

1. The PGA Tour’s biggest stars are sad, too, coming off another week where a longshot took home the trophy. This tweet from Shane Bacon summed things up pretty nicely, I thought:

I don’t mean to take anything away from Eckroat’s victory. He was steely under pressure. He was a deserving champ. I expect we’ll see him atop leaderboards for years to come. And its meritocracy is among the PGA Tour’s greatest assets. But thus far the PGA Tour’s 2024 winners have lacked star power, marking a stark contrast to the top-tier victors of early 2023.

This week felt like it could have belonged to Rory McIlroy, who won Monday’s Match under the lights in West Palm Beach and brought that ball-striking to PGA National, where he led the field in strokes gained from tee to green. But then he couldn’t get a putt to drop, finishing 64th out of 68 in strokes gained putting. That added up to a T21 finish and, in McIlroy’s words, “a week that could have been.” Sigh.

I was also taken by Viktor Hovland‘s comments on Claude Harmon‘s podcast, Son of a Butch, as he looked at professional golf’s future. Its obsession with money, he said, threatens to drive meaning from the sport.

“Obviously the paycheck is nice as well, but that’s — if that’s what you’re remembering by the end of the week, I kind of — that feels a little bit soulless, in my opinion,” he said.

Hovland said he hopes for some sort of reunification but admitted he doesn’t know the path forward for professional golf. He called the current state of affairs “a bit comical.” And while it’s probably easy to be dismissive of money when you already have tens of millions, Hovland has long felt this way.


3. Shane Lowry finished T4 at PGA National, a course where he’s done everything but win. He did everything but win again over the weekend, playing his way into the final pairing before stumbling out of the gate on Sunday. A double-bogey 5 at the par-3 15th sealed his fate, and while birdies at 16 and 18 made a big difference in money and FedEx Cup points…

2. Joaquin Niemann obviously hasn’t played a PGA Tour event in a while, but his last seven starts across LIV, the Asian Tour and the DP World Tour include six top-five finishes and now three wins. Niemann did some winter globe-trotting in search of world ranking points to try to play his way into the major championships, and the Masters rewarded him with a berth in the event. But in each of his LIV victories he’s taken shots at the golf establishment in his post-round interviews.

1. Paul Azinger unleashed on NBC Sports and the PGA Tour in a lengthy interview with Golfweek’s Adam Schupak. Azinger took issue with his departure from NBC, detailing what he saw as bad-faith negotiations before the network ultimately moved on from him as its lead analyst. He painted a picture of a network and broadcaster on different pages, lambasting the company’s cost-cutting, describing one executive as “an a-hole about [negotiations]” and then turning his ire to the PGA Tour, which is he said “has fast become the qualifier for LIV, and it’s a sad day for golf.”

Azinger insisted in the interview that he was not bitter. But he also declared that he’s ruled out any sort of return to work on the PGA Tour while it remains under current leadership. He also didn’t shut the door on a leap to LIV — or even the PGA Tour Champions.

“I’d rather call the Senior Tour than the PGA Tour to tell you the truth. I’m over the PGA Tour. To call the best senior players in the world, at least they’re the best.”

So, yeah. Azinger doesn’t love how things ended. You can read that whole thing here.


Monday Finish HQ.

Among the many blessings of a newborn is the ability to sit on the couch with a baby in your lap watching sports for hours on end under the guise of “childcare.” Rest assured we haven’t missed much. My daughter also seemed determined to wake up to see Anthony Kim‘s LIV return, too; she currently operates on several different time zones.

In all seriousness I am suddenly and completely in awe of anyone who has a kid and a job, not to mention those of you with multiple kids (and/or multiple jobs!) and if you’ve also found time to read this far into a golf recap column then I appreciate you even more. Here’s to a few hours’ good sleep tonight.


3 things to watch this week.

1. Netflix! The PGA Tour could use a shot in the arm at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass as we gear up for major season and perhaps that’ll come in the form of Full Swing, Season 2, which comes out Wednesday. (Keep your eye out for a few appearances from a certain golf writer…)

2. AK! We saw how Anthony Kim’s debut went. How will his follow-up act look? LIV is back in action this week in Hong Kong. We still won’t have a complete picture of Kim’s comeback for several weeks, but it’ll be telling whether this next tournament marks a step forward — or reinforces the size of the hill he has to climb.

3. Bay Hill! While I’ve grown allergic to constant references to professional golf as a “product” and I don’t think it’s been an ideal start to the PGA Tour’s year, I do think the reshapers of the Tour’s product have stumbled into at least one good idea: the Aon “Swing 5” and “Next 10”. Okay, maybe that’s two ideas, but they seem to be effective at taking the stars of these smaller tournaments and boosting ’em into the Siggies. Winners like Knapp and Pavon and Eckroat are automatically in via victory. But so are near-winners like Min Woo Lee, Erik van Rooyen, Sami Valimaki and Stephen Jaeger. If you’ve been a main character in a non-Signature Event, there’s a good chance you’ll boost yourself up to the big time. That’s cool.

I’m excited for that crop of guys to mix in with the rest of the big names for this week’s event. I’m excited at the possibility of a tournament without rain delays. (I just checked the weather forecast for Orlando and so I am now excited for the weatherman predicting weekend thunderstorms to be dead wrong.) And I’m excited to be back, even if I’m typing these last couple paragraphs with my right hand and a baby in my left. Seems like a good place to end things.

We’ll see you next week!

Dylan welcomes your feedback at

The post Mad golfers, bad weather, Paul Azinger’s messy exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.