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Malnati's Masters dream, Korda's return, 1 putting tip | Monday Finish

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Peter Malnati at this week’s Valspar Championship.
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we figured the best bucket of the week would be in the NCAA Tournament [crowd cheers] — that is, until we saw Peter Malnati’s hat! [Crowd groans.] To the golf news:
Malnati to the Masters.
One particularly cherished perk of winning on the PGA Tour is the Masters invitation that comes with it. Qualifying for the field at Augusta National is rarified air; Peter Malnati has played a decade on Tour and never been. But that changed on Sunday with his inspired Valspar Championship victory. Given he’s only played in three majors in his career — and given the way he unloaded in his emotional post-round interview — I was curious to hear his reaction to an Augusta invitation.
“I’ll probably accept that invitation and go play the Masters,” he said with a laugh. “Which will be really, really — I mean, the realization of another childhood dream.” But he also made it clear that Augusta hasn’t even been on his radar.
“I may feel something special when I get on the grounds at Augusta, and I hope I do, but I’m going to feel just as amped up on the first tee next week in Houston because this, playing golf on the PGA Tour, for 90 percent of us out here, is A, really, really hard, and B, the realization of a dream,” he said. “I think more of what has sunk in to me is that this is my 10th season on the PGA Tour and it guarantees me that I’m going to have 12, at least.”
Malnati said he dreamt as a kid of playing the Masters. But that wasn’t the dream. The dream was to never have to get a real job. He watched his dad work really hard, he said, and it didn’t look like much fun. That dream continues. And part of what made Malnati’s win so satisfying for viewers was the simple fact that it’s nice to see someone who’s living the dream appreciate the fact that they’re living the dream. That’s golf stuff I like.
“But I’m sure as I, you know, relax a little bit from here, I’ll start wondering what that 12th tee shot to that back-right pin at Augusta’s going to feel like,” Malnati concluded. “So, it is pretty cool.”
Who won the week? Here are 10.
Nelly Korda (1) reclaimed the top spot in the Rolex Rankings thanks to a playoff victory at the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship. She’d won her previous start at the LPGA Drive On Championship before she took a seven-week break, much of it spent in Prague; now she has two wins in a row and 10 for her career.
(Sidenote on that Prague trip: it sounded awesome. “I spent two and a half weeks in Prague with my family, which was amazing, in actually cold weather, and I really, really enjoyed it. I don’t remember — like I was telling [her caddie and coach] Jay and Jamie, I don’t remember the last time I put my clubs away and wasn’t injured and was like, in a good headspace.” A refreshed Nelly Korda should have golf fans intrigued.)
It’s good for the LPGA Tour (2) to have its biggest star building momentum with back-to-back wins heading into the meat of the season, particularly with a dramatic eagle-bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey finish. And it’s good for Korda, who just really loves being in the mix in golf tournaments.
“I just think it’s so much fun competing,” she said post-round at Palos Verdes Golf Club. “There is nothing better than that adrenaline rush coming down your last couple holes when you’re in the lead. When it comes to wins, obviously every event that I play in, I want to win — but I also just love the experiences of playing in these events and learning more about myself.”
Golfers that wear bucket hats (3) and golfers that play yellow golf balls (4) are winners thanks to Peter Malnati’s (5) victory at the Valspar Championship. If stats guru Justin Ray doesn’t have the data on this one, I certainly don’t, but it’s not clear to me there’s been a non-white-golf-ball winner on the PGA Tour since Jerry Pate used an orange ball at the Players Championship in 1982. What better tournament to add a splash of color than the one sponsored by a paint company?
valspar venn diagram pic.twitter.com/ENUPVWA2IG
The Swedish depth chart (6) scored a win with Jesper Svensson’s (7) victory at the Porsche Singapore Classic, which came thanks to a course-record-tying nine-under 63 and catapulted the 29-year-old to No. 102 in the world. That makes five Swedes in the top 102 (he’s behind Ludvig Aberg, Alex Noren, Alexander Bjork and Vincent Normann and just leapfrogged David Lingmerth and Sebastian Soderberg) on the men’s side. Add in four women in the top 65 in the Rolex Ranking and you’ve got a remarkably strong contingent for a cold-weather country…
Padraig Harrington (8) won the Hoag Classic, closing with back-to-back birdies for a one-shot win over Thongchai Jaidee at Newport Beach Country Club that led to this terrific scene of Harrington in a mini-car.
Paddy’s new ride 😆

The 2024 @HoagClassic champion @Padraig_H enjoys a victory lap. pic.twitter.com/Mn3SvmJm2M
Let’s finish with two quotes from almost-winners. First there was Cameron Young (9), whose three-putt bogey at No. 18 cemented the seventh runner-up finish of his young PGA Tour career; he still hasn’t won. Young said he was proud of how he handled things mentally; “I handled my own thoughts really well and, for me, that’s a big win regardless of the outcome,” he said.
But when he was asked for his emotions leaving the course, I was glad Young also gave us a window into the duality of chasing a big-picture dream (a PGA Tour win) while reminding us of the minute-to-minute reality: “I don’t know. Honestly, I realized I wasn’t going to win pretty quickly, and I have a four-hour drive home with a 1- and a 2-year-old, so whatever emotions are attached to that,” he concluded. Touche.
Finally there’s Carl Yuan (10), who chipped in three times in the first 13 holes and made a run at the lead before eventually settling into a T5 finish.
“On the weeks I do play well I play aggressive,” he said. “I enjoy hitting shots. Like, when I hit a shot, as soon as it leaves the clubface, I can turn around confidently no matter where the ball goes. I mean, I’ve already done all my work at that point. Where the ball went, that’s its business, not mine.”
That’s its business, not mine. I’d argue that where that ball goes is very literally Yuan’s business but I appreciate the sentiment, so I’m all in on this vibe.
NOT-WINNERS
Not the week for these five.
It was a dispiriting final pairing at the Valspar for 54-hole leader Keith Mitchell (1) and Seamus Power (2), who went out with designs on winning and limped home instead. Through 13 holes, Mitchell made zero birdies, six bogeys and a double; he had an eagle and a birdie coming in just to shoot 77 and finish T17. Power shot 76 and finished T26. Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is not the place to play when you’re off.
Nor was it a happy place for the putter of Justin Thomas (3). It’s been a strange season for Thomas, who finished the fall on the up-and-up and, despite missing the cut at last week’s Players, entered the week with eight top-12s in his last 10 starts worldwide. Things looked up after a 68-69 start, too. But then he shot 79 on Saturday thanks in large part to losing seven strokes to the field putting. Blergh.
79 today for JT with 38 total putts. Golf is hard. 🫣 pic.twitter.com/Hh9f1Q0oht
It was also a jarring putting weekend for Argentinian rookie Alejandro Tosti (4), who finished 76th of 77 in strokes gained on the greens. Tosti’s PGA Tour arrival came with some fanfare after some fireworks throughout his Korn Ferry Tour career. But although he’s been a terrific driver of the ball (No. 7 in strokes gained off the tee) he’s struggled everywhere else, losing strokes with his irons, around the greens and putting, too. He’s gotten off to hot starts; he’s averaging 68.86 on Thursdays, No. 21 on Tour. But he’s 150th or worse in scoring average on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There’s plenty of time for Tosti to take the next step; it’s only March and he’s only played seven events. He just hasn’t put it all together yet.
And as Kevin Kisner’s (5) TV career begins to take off, his on-course comeback continues to stall; he shot 80-75, struggled from tee to green and beat just one player in the Valspar field.
Jay, Yasir and the gang meet for lunch.
On Monday some of the most important figures in the world of professional golf — reps from the Saudi Public Investment Fund and reps from the PGA Tour — met in the Bahamas for, well, something. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan described it as a “constructive” conversation in a memo to Tour players. The meeting included all six player directors, which meant Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth were there along with your Valspar champion Peter Malnati.
Simpson spoke to Sports Illustrated‘s Bob Harig and said he went into the meeting hoping to learn a little more about PIF head Yasir Al-Rumayyan.
“Learn about LIV more. What was your intention and hope there? How’s it going? All that kind of stuff. A meet and greet and learn. I think he wanted to learn from us kind of what we think. We wanted to figure out what he thinks.”
How’d that go?
“We didn’t get as far as what he wants and what does LIV want,” Simpson added.
Ah.
“He certainly seems engaged enough in the game already that he has desires to see the game grow globally, I think it’s fair to say. And he mentioned growing it in Saudi to try and do that.”
Sources tell the Monday Finish that, as of that meeting, the sides weren’t particularly close to a solution. That squares with what Malnati told SI; he mentioned there being “a lot of work to do” and the presence of a significant “space between” each side’s vision for golf’s future. Still, Tiger Woods was “engaged” with the conversations and those conversations continued beyond the meet-and-greet and there’s no question that there’s far more we don’t know about the encounter than what we do.
And that’s not where the story ended, if you believe our friends at Radar Atlas…
The jet closely related to Jay Monahan/PGA Tour #N795HG flew this evening from St Augustine, FL to Miami, FL. The plane flew into the same airport that Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s plane #N651XA flew to earlier in the week after the PGA/PIF meeting in Nassau.

And yes, Yasir’s plane is… pic.twitter.com/DsgmQRY3mU
Rachel Heck isn’t turning pro.
In a poignant letter published on No Laying Up’s website, Rachel Heck announced that upon graduation from Stanford she won’t pursue a career in professional golf. While her Stanford teammate Rose Zhang has become one of the faces of the LPGA, Heck — who was the best player in college golf her freshman year before several challenging years where she was beset by “sickness and injuries and invisible trials” that further complicated her relationship with the game.
From Heck:
I was strongly considering attributing my decision to my injuries. It is true that even if I wanted to, I do not know if my body would hold up on tour. But frankly, after a couple of years of painful deliberation, I have come to realize that I do not want to play professional golf. I do not want a life on the road and in the public eye. I no longer dream of the U.S. Open trophies and the Hall of Fame. And I realize now that these dreams were never what my dad intended when he first put a club in my hand.
You can read the entire thing here.
On putting.
From Mackenzie Hughes, who finished T3 in Tampa:
“With my putting, I kind of went a little more feel, a little more no line. I’d been kind of using the line a little bit this year, and I went no line and just tried to free it up a little bit.”
How’d it go? Very well! Hughes had the second-best putting week in the field. If that tip sounds familiar, Scottie Scheffler has been singing the praises of putting without using the line on his ball. For whatever it’s worth, first-round leader Kevin Streelman said basically the opposite — but if you’re someone who uses the line and you’ve been struggling to make putts, try changing things up.
To Pinehurst.
The good people of GOLF have put together the Pinehurst Experience, a cool combination of offerings which include a round at the brand-new No. 10 course, a sweet behind-the-scenes tour of No. 2, golf at the Cradle, breakfasts and dinners in cool places and what promises to be a lively conversation with Peter Kostis and Gary McCord. You can check out the full details here.
Monday Finish HQ.
Nobody told me that having our first kid in February would actually lead to watching more March Madness than usual but man, what a thrilling development. The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is probably my favorite sports weekend of the year. The anticipation, the brackets, the upsets, the nerves on full display and dreams fulfilled — it’s the best. There’s something nostalgic about it for me, too. The opening rounds conjure memories of road-trips to high school ski races in central Maine, Westwood One on the radio. Or the start of our college spring break, where we’d drive to Florida for a fortnight — Westwood One still on the radio. I didn’t drive anywhere this week. But I watched a lot of basketball.
3 things to watch this week.
1. Scottie three-peat?
We’ve got Scheffler, the World No. 1, playing the Houston Children’s Open at Memorial Park, where he enters as the heavy favorite at just +300 coming off wins in his last two starts.
2. Nelly three-peat?
We’ve got Korda, the World No. 1, playing the all-new 2024 Ford Championship at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Ariz., coming off wins in her last two starts.
3. This Michael Bamberger piece
With David Feherty, the debut of his new series GOLF Originals. It’s real, and emotional, and, funny, and immersive, and also dark. Bamberger’s the best. Worth your time. That’s below.
We’ll see you next week!
Dylan welcomes your comments at dylan_dethier@golf.com.

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.
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