Sentry’s best and worst, Rory’s LIV takes, Tiger’s exit | Monday Finish

This year’s PGA Tour season is underway with a club change, a clothing change, a Tiger change and an opinion change leading the news.

The post Sentry’s best and worst, Rory’s LIV takes, Tiger’s exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

This year’s PGA Tour season is underway with a club change, a clothing change, a Tiger change and an opinion change leading the news.

The post Sentry’s best and worst, Rory’s LIV takes, Tiger’s exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re fishing for a Nike Golf sponsorship. Let’s get to the news!

It’s the first Monday Finish of 2024, which means we are entering Year 3 of this column’s existence. At Monday Finish HQ, we strive to adapt with the times, which means for this week’s edition, we’re hopping aboard the New Year’s trend of what’s IN and OUT following the first PGA Tour event of the new season.

IN: Scottie Scheffler’s ball-striking

New year, same Scottie Scheffler. This was the week Scheffler picked up his second consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year title and then logged a ho-hum T5 finish, leading the field in strokes gained from tee to green in the process. That’s impressive! It should also come as no surprise, because that’s pretty much what Scheffler does every time he plays …

OUT: Scheffler’s putting

New year, same Scottie Scheffler. After gaining strokes the first two days on the greens and seizing the 36-hole lead, Scheffler looked like he could roll to a victory in his second consecutive start. Instead he faded on the weekend, losing nearly four strokes to the field putting on Saturday and Sunday combined (although he played Sunday’s final 14 holes in eight-under par). From the booth, Kevin Kisner provided an intriguing theory that Scheffler struggles with his alignment, setting up with his feet square or even slightly closed to the target, just like he does with his full swing. The results with his full swing are undeniable. But so are the results with his putter.

His setup works with driver, Kisner said, because he can hit a fade.

“But he can’t really fade a putt.”

NBC analyst Kevin Kisner broke down Scottie Scheffler's putting, comparing it to his full swing setup.
NBC analyst Kevin Kisner broke down Scottie Scheffler’s putting, comparing it to his full swing setup. NBC Sports

IN: Kevin Kisner’s commentary

It was a good week for NBC’s broadcast team, which added Kevin Kisner for the first of two trial weeks as it searches for a full-time analyst to fill the seat formerly held by Paul Azinger. While I thought they overdid it early week with the overanalysis of the analyst (“Kiz, how you do think it’s going so far?” “Haven’t been fired yet!” etc.), by the weekend he offered measured analysis with well-placed insights (see Scheffler, above) and the occasional well-placed barb (see Jordan Spieth, below).

Kisner downplayed any talk that this would be a full-time move — he joked that it was a good way to get a free flight to Hawaii before he plays in this week’s Sony Open — but so far, so good.

OUT: Viktor Hovland’s short-game guru

Why? I’m not sure, to be honest. But arguably the most high-profile player-coach combo of 2023 has not made it to 2024 after Viktor Hovland confirmed his split with Joe Mayo. With Mayo’s consultation, Hovland had famously transformed from a poor chipper and pitcher of the golf ball to someone so confident with wedge in hand that he pulled wedge for a tricky chip on the first hole of the Ryder Cup — and hit a shot that became the tournament’s tone-setter. Anyway, both Hovland and Mayo have declined to comment on the split. But if you’re looking to overreact to one week of data, Hovland faded to T22 on the weekend and finished 42nd in the field around the greens.

Still, I’d say it’s worth giving this one some time to play out.

IN: New brands

The Sentry is always where we see some new equipment and apparel, but this year we saw a couple new brands enter the Tour pro space. First was Xander Schauffele, who has worn Adidas throughout his career but has now switched to Descente, an outdoor apparel company best known for its ski line. Schauffele will help advise the team as it doubles down on its golf line, with a release saying Descente hopes he’ll help “strengthen its golf category lineup in Japan, Korea, and China.” Schauffele, who will continue to sport Adidas footwear, looked sharp all week in clean, crisp fits:

Xander Schauffele in Descente.
Xander Schauffele in Descente. Ben Jared / Getty Images

Then there was Jason Day, who shook up the golf world by switching from the slim-fit stretchy swoosh into something decidedly … baggier.

Day became the first PGA Tour brand ambassador for Malbon, a trendy smaller shop that fancies itself an innovator in the golf and lifestyle space. In this case, they’re moving forward by looking back, tossing Day into some 90s-era tailoring. My only gripe? If you’re going baggy, let’s get baggier. Maybe next start …

OUT: Nike Golf

Day wearing Malbon means he’s not wearing Nike, which marks a significant shakeup in the golf lineup of the swoosh. But a far more significant shakeup was confirmed via tweet on Monday morning: Tiger Woods is leaving the brand, too!

While Woods thanked Nike for their 27-year partnership, he also teased two things. No. 1, that something is coming next. (“Yes, there will certainly be another chapter.”) No. 2, that he’ll be playing the Genesis Invitational. (“See you in LA!”) I’ll leave the Tiger-in-Nike-red obits to others and just say that, with the possible exception of Arnold Palmer and bottled iced tea-lemonade, this was the most iconic golfer-brand relationship of all time.

We’ll see what’s next for Nike, which is clearly scaling back its golf investment. Scheffler still wore Nike shirts this week, as did Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Kim. We’ll see if Rory McIlroy is still swooshed up at this week’s Dubai Invitational, and Brooks Koepka whenever he makes his next LIV appearance. And then we’ll see what’s next for Woods — and for his accompanying TW brand.

IN: Mashing drives

If you weren’t cranking a couple drives 400 plus down the (literally) volcanic fairways of Kapalua’s Ocean Course ,you were basically a nobody; it’s preposterous how far drives roll here. But nobody rolled one better than Max Homa, whose 477-yard drive on the severely downhill par-4 7th left him with just a flip wedge into the massive par-4 and marked the longest recorded drive on the PGA Tour since at least 2003, the beginning of the ShotLink era.

OUT: Making pars

Lee Trevino said that there are two things that won’t last long in this world: dogs chasing cars and pros putting for pars. That sure was true this week, where even in a no-cut event, last-place Vincent Norrman shot six-under par for four rounds. Reaching double digits under par meant beating just three people (Rickie Fowler shot 10 under and finished 56th of 59) and going low didn’t mean much, either: Justin Rose shot 12-under par on Sunday and only moved from 54th to T40, while Ludvig Aberg‘s 10-under Sunday jumped him from 56th to 47th. And Sungjae Im made a PGA Tour-record 34 birdies on the week and never seriously contended. Tough crowd!

IN: Changing clubs

As Chris Kirk stood in the 17th fairway, he got a number from his caddie — 192 yards after slope adjustment — and considered what to hit as he waited for playing partner Akshay Bhatia to go first.

“If I had been first to hit, before Akshay, I would have pulled out 7 and hit a nice full 7 downwind,” Kirk said. But Bhatia took his time; he was trying to figure out the swirling wind. Kirk was, too. By the time it was turn to play, it didn’t feel downwind at all.

“We felt it off the right for a little while, we felt it off the left, and then it eventually settled back into out of the north like it had been,” he said. Kirk pulled 5-iron. Then he hit one of the best shots of his life, arguably the shot of his life, flagging it inside two feet and effectively slamming the door shut on a massive PGA Tour victory. He hadn’t made it to the Sentry in eight years. He made this trip worth his while.

“I’m very, very proud of that shot, proud that I was able to make the right call and — talk about a tough shot to commit to. When you’re about to pull 7 and you end up hitting 5, that doesn’t happen ever. That never happens. So to be able to commit to it like I did and make that good of a swing was an incredible feeling.”

OUT: Rory McIlroy, politician

In the wake of Rory McIlroy‘s podcast appearance last week, in which he expressed some remorse for being overly judgmental about LIV defectors, Greg Norman took to LIV’s podcast to declare some sort of victory, crowing that McIlroy had “fallen on his sword” and declaring that this marked a significant turning point in LIV’s future.

That may well be true. Time will tell. But after watching McIlroy’s appearance in its entirety I was left with a different impression: He’s just done with the fight. He’s walking away. This didn’t feel as new and flashy as everyone made it out to be. Really it felt like a continuation of what he told Jamie Weir after Rahm’s departure, and what he implied by leaving the PGA Tour’s board, and what he’d set in motion by staying silent on all things LIV beginning all the way back in May at the PGA Championship.

I remember wondering in the early stages of this battle if the difference between McIlroy and Phil Mickelson was that McIlroy was fighting for the world he wanted to live in, while Mickelson was taking full advantage of the world as it actually is. That’s still probably an oversimplification, but hearing McIlroy reference his “altruistic approach” really just underscored the way that approach had failed.

“I’ve accepted reality basically,” he said. “This is what’s going to happen. You can say what you want and do what you want but at the end of the day you’re not going to be able to change peoples’ minds.”

Has McIlroy changed his tune on LIV? For sure. It seems like he’s reconsidered his worldview, too. And I’m not wholly clear on his motives going forward. I just don’t think that was an endorsement of LIV — nor of the world in which we live.

IN: Gary Woodland

Some of the best news of the week was that, four months after brain surgery, we’re getting Gary Woodland back at this week’s Sony Open. Here’s to a happy, healthy season for the 39-year-old.

Will Zalatoris is back in the field, too, making his first official PGA Tour start since last year’s Masters. He played the Hero World Challenge, where he looked rusty but promising. We’ll see what he’s like in a full-field setting.

OUT: Patrick Reed’s lawsuits

They’ve been dismissed and Patrick Reed is responsible for paying legal fees for all involved. I’ve been advised to say nothing more on the matter.

IN: Sahith and Spieth

It’s tough to think of two more compelling characters in the hunt on Sunday. Good start to the season, gang. Excited to see where we go from here.


Monday Finish HQ.

We’ve got snow and a frozen mix projected for this weekend. Winter golf season is decidedly on hold.


3 things to watch this week.

1. The Dubai Invitational

I don’t know much about this event other than it’s making its DP World Tour debut, with 60 pros and 60 ams playing together for the first three days before a pros-only Sunday finish. Rory McIlroy will make his 2024 debut; what he wears, says and shoots will be worth monitoring. Fellow Ryder Cuppers Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard are in the field, too, as is their Ryder Cup hero-captain, Luke Donald.

2. The Sony

Our first cut of the PGA Tour season, folks. And a strong field, too! Ludvig Aberg leads the projections at 12-1, followed by Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick (16-1) as several big-timers make the hop from Maui to Oahu.

3. Smylie Kaufman’s story

The second guest on our new show, Breakthrough, was Smylie Kaufman. He told his story — how he made it to the final group at the Masters and how he lost control of his golf game and how he found his calling. Plus you can see me brush my teeth, which looks far more awkward than I expected. All that below:

Dylan (cautiously) welcomes your comments at

The post Sentry’s best and worst, Rory’s LIV takes, Tiger’s exit | Monday Finish appeared first on Golf.