Players divided on 54-hole cut in playoffs

By Will GrayAugust 31, 2014, 7:47 pm

NORTON, Mass. – In the playoffs, so the mantra goes, every shot counts.

With four postseason events gradually whittling down the list of contenders for the FedEx Cup, the difference between safety and elimination can often be small.

Last year, the gap between Ernie Els and Ryan Palmer after the Deutsche Bank Championship was less than one point: Els finished 70th and went on to play in the BMW Championship; Palmer finished 71st and earned an extra week of vacation.

With the stakes raised in the postseason, the value of a single good round can often be magnified. Except that for the second straight week, a handful of players won’t receive an opportunity to go low one last time.

As was the case at The Barclays, a secondary, 54-hole cut is in effect this week at TPC Boston. While only 93 players began the event, 80 made the cut at 3-over 145 or better.

Because more than 78 players advanced, the field will again be trimmed to low 70 and ties after the third round. The rule is rooted in the logistics of weekend television windows, and comes up with some frequency: it was used 12 times during the regular season.

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It rarely impacts the playoffs, though, and occurred only once in the postseason from 2008-2013. But this year both playoff events with a 36-hole cut also required an additional trim after 54 holes, which left some players questioning whether it’s a rule that should end with the regular season.

“I don’t think we should do it in the playoffs,” said Brendan Steele, who made the 36-hole cut on the number but improved his standing with a third-round 69. “Guys have a chance to go out and shoot 65 early on Sunday, regardless of where they are, and it could be the difference in getting through.”

Steele’s sentiments were echoed by Scott Stallings, whose 1-over 72 Sunday was just enough to earn him a tee time in the final round as he looks to make one last charge toward next week’s event in Denver.

“You earn the right to play the weekend, you should play the weekend. This is the most important part of our season,” said Stallings. “I definitely think it should be re-thought, and give the guys an opportunity to play all four days. Someone got affected last week, and someone’s going to get affected this week.”

The player most impacted last week at Ridgewood was Luke Guthrie, who ended the regular season at No. 95 in the standings. Guthrie made the 36-hole cut but missed the secondary cut by one shot after a third-round 72. He fell to No. 106 in the points race as a result, with only the top 100 advancing to this week’s event in Boston.

This time around, the most notable MDF casualty was Scott Brown, who began the week on the bubble at No. 70. Brown rallied to make the cut during the second round, highlighted by a hole-in-one, but struggled to a 6-over 77 Sunday. While the secondary cut effectively ended his season, Brown has no problem with its use in the playoffs.

“I don’t think you can use them all year and then not use them in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s not fair to those guys that were MDF (Made cut, Didn’t Finish) all year. I think the bigger deal is that the points in the playoffs are weighted so high that you don’t reward the guys that have had a great year so far.”

The issue of how and when to implement the secondary cut is one that will be brought up at the first Player Advisory Council meeting of the 2014-15 season at the Open. While PAC member Stewart Cink agreed with Brown’s assessment – “That’s the way we’ve done it all year. I don’t see why we shouldn’t keep doing it the same way,” he said – fellow PAC member Scott Langley would prefer to do away with the secondary cut entirely.

Langley is an example of what can happen when a player is afforded 72 holes. After barely making the 54-hole cut at The Barclays, he shot a final-round 66 to finish in a tie for 30th. After beginning the final round projected at No. 85 in the standings, Langley instead headed to Boston at No. 65.

“To have that opportunity, I think, is important,” Langley said. “Especially as you get later in the year, daylight is not an issue so we can still achieve the same product for TV, even with the big cut. We can play twosomes and just tee off earlier.”

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm