The PGA Tour’s fall season has given us emotional winners and compelling tales

As Erik van Rooyen and Camilo Villegas walked down the primary fairway on a Sunday afternoon final week in Cabo San Lucas, van Rooyen instructed Villegas the story of his ache. He instructed him in regards to the “JT” written on his golf balls — for Jon Trasamar, the school teammate with terminal most cancers he had on his thoughts.

And Villegas understood. He misplaced his daughter, Mia, to mind most cancers three years in the past, solely returning to golf on the urging of his spouse. That weekend, Villegas was having considered one of his greatest tournaments since that loss, so it wasn’t in him to complain as van Rooyen shot a back-nine 28 to win the World Broad Expertise Championship and break down in tears telling the world about Trasamar.

“It was simply meant to be,” Villegas instructed reporters. “He stated it, enjoying for a unique motive apart from only a trophy, and it was his time.”

And Sunday was Villegas’ time. He went to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship to flee 9 years of declining golf and emotional ache to get again to the winner’s circle.

“And right here I’m,” he stated. “I suppose it was my week to be.”

You may not have been watching any of this. I get it. The PGA Tour fall schedule isn’t appointment viewing. No one’s claiming you need to be tuning in Thursday morning for early groupings. The fields are thinner and the scores are loopy low and might result in a considerably empty feeling. However you additionally must acknowledge the storylines popping out of those winners have been unimaginable.

And that tends to matter.

Begin with Sahith Theegala on the Fortinet Championship in Napa, top-of-the-line younger gamers on Tour who has come painfully shut so many instances, lastly getting his first PGA Tour win. Tom Kim, the 21-year-old rising star, defended his Shriners title in Las Vegas.

However then Collin Morikawa received in Japan. No, it’s not some large victory for his resume. But it’s a key step within the profession of a 26-year-old star that has an opportunity to be nice. As a result of after his second main in 2021, Morikawa had a disappointing 2022 season that bled into 2023. That was till late August, when Morikawa acquired scorching within the FedEx Cup Playoffs, going T13, T25 and T6 within the three occasions. He talked in Atlanta like any individual figuring it out, smiling as he stated all of it clicked for the primary time in two years. To then go to Japan (Morikawa is of Japanese and Chinese language descent) two months later and win his first Tour occasion in two years solidified one thing. That he may need his recreation again, and the younger phenom is perhaps able to go on a tear subsequent 12 months.

Then van Rooyen and Villegas received in back-to-back weeks.

The tales of the common season usually start within the fall, in order that they do have relevance.

Keegan Bradley had change into one thing of an afterthought a couple of 12 months in the past. Then he acquired a T5 on the Sanderson Farms Championship and received final October in Japan. That sparked an enormous comeback 12 months for the 37-year-old main winner, successful the elevated Vacationers Championship and placing himself within the Ryder Cup dialogue.

Similar for Russell Henley. He was residing within the center. Then, he received in Mexico to launch a profession 12 months with 13 top-20 finishes and three top-5s. He’s at the moment the No. 12 golfer on DataGolf.

And don’t overlook Napa is the place Max Homa launched his mid-career renaissance. His 2021 win on the Fortinet was the precursor to his breakout 2022 marketing campaign, and successful once more final September got here earlier than the most effective season of his profession. Kim additionally introduced himself on the 2022 Shriners, incomes his second profession win at 20.

Whether or not or not van Rooyen, Villegas or Luke Checklist (who received final month in Jackson, Mississippi) are going to have large 2024 seasons is to be decided. However their wins this season have been value watching.

Rory McIlroy’s emotional outburst at caddie Joe LaCava was one of many tales of the 2023 Ryder Cup. (Kyle Terada / USA In the present day Sports activities)

Rory McIlroy speaks out on the Ryder Cup drama, Cantlay

It’s been greater than a month because the drama of Rome, with Europe successful the Ryder Cup however perhaps most notably intrigue surrounding Patrick Cantlay’s carrying of a hat, his caddie Joe LaCava’s elongated celebration and Rory McIlroy later having to be pulled away right into a automobile in anger.

McIlroy and fellow Irish Ryder Cup golfer Shane Lowry spoke to the Irish Unbiased in a very attention-grabbing interview this week that’s value studying in its entirety. We don’t wanna delve into the clickbait-y, however in actuality, probably the most attention-grabbing components of the interview additionally make clear a very essential dynamic for the way forward for the PGA Tour.

The piece that can get probably the most headlines will likely be McIlroy calling Cantlay “that dick” and saying their relationship is “common at greatest.” McIlroy and Cantlay are two of the important thing forces on the PGA Tour’s coverage board. They’re each opinionated, concerned figures who usually get looped collectively due to their positions and the PGA Tour-LIV battle, however inside golf, it’s all the time been understood they usually characterize totally different views. McIlroy was virtually the face of the “anti-LIV” motion and doing every part he may to spice up the PGA Tour whereas Cantlay is usually reported to be flirting with LIV and specializing in more cash and rights for gamers.

So when discussing the incident on the 18th inexperienced on the Ryder Cup through which Cantlay’s caddie, LaCava, famously waved his hat within the air to close down the European followers taunting Cantlay for a report saying Cantlay wasn’t carrying a hat to protest gamers not being paid and inflicting a rift within the locker room — I’m conscious that’s a mouthful, however that day was quite a bit — McIlroy stated he felt like he was not given the identical courtesy he gave Cantlay.

McIlroy: “Right here’s what angered me. My relationship with Cantlay is common at greatest. We don’t have a ton in frequent and see the world fairly otherwise. However once I noticed he was getting stick on the seventeenth and 18th greens I attempted to quieten the gang for him. And I don’t suppose (Matthew Fitzpatrick) and I have been afforded the identical alternative to try to gap these putts to halve the match.”

It’s the primary time McIlory has put that description of their relationship out into the world, one thing useful as all of us make sense of inside Tour dynamics. Once more, it’s value studying your complete piece, as McIlroy and Lowry mentioned scenes contained in the locker room and every part that went down.

“We get to the resort, and as you come into the foyer we go left to our wing of the resort, and the People go proper to their wing,” McIlroy stated. “So we’re going left and somebody is shouting at me, ‘Rory! Rory!’, and I look again and it’s Ricky Elliott (the Portrush-born caddie of the American, Brooks Koepka) and Claude Harmon (Koepka’s swing coach). They usually’re attempting to defuse the scenario however I begin having a go at them: ‘Joe LaCava was a pleasant man when he was caddying for Tiger, and now he’s caddying for that dick he’s changed into a …’ I nonetheless wasn’t in an awesome headspace.”

Later, he went on to say:

“I went again to my room and there was a textual content from Joe LaCava: ‘Hey Rory, would love to fulfill up within the morning to clear the air.’ However I used to be drained and didn’t get again to him. There was additionally three texts and two missed calls from Tiger, as a result of they’re clearly nonetheless shut. I despatched him a fast message: ‘Will probably be effective … lengthy day … simply need to go to mattress.’”

The drama of that week lends itself to over studying and investigation. An increasing number of will probably come out over time. It issues that McIlroy acknowledges he doesn’t suppose extremely of Cantlay. It issues that Tiger Woods, who LaCava used to caddie for, tried to name and make repairs. And it issues that McIlroy talked so brazenly.

However primarily, yeah, it’s entertaining.

(Prime photograph of Camilo Villegas: Gregory Shamus / Getty Photographs)

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