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By Golf Channel DigitalMay 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
What should be the average field size and cut line for a regular PGA TOUR event?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
Part of this depends on the time of year. Certain west coast events, early in the year, have less daylight and, therefore, less time to get all rounds completed, especially if there are weather issues. I've got no problem with low 70 and ties and fields of 144 except when daylight is a problem. Playing on the PGA TOUR should be a privilege, not a right. So when the fields are smaller, I'm OK with that, too.
Kraig Kann Kraig Kann - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
One Hundred and fifty for full-field events. 25 threesomes off each side on Thursday and Friday. Cut to 60 and ties, making it more of a premium to make the cut. My biggest issue is pace of play. Invites like the Memorial and Arnold Palmer Invitational should be 120.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
One hundred and forty four with a cut to the low sixty and ties.

Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
This would probably get me lynched at a player meeting, but I think field size should be 144 max and closer to 120 at tournaments where daylight is an issue. Id really like to see 120 at most every event with a cut to low 60 and ties, but thats not likely to get approved anytime soon.
Hot Topic
What is your most memorable moment on the par-3 17th during THE PLAYERS Championship?
Probably Len Mattiace's 8 in 1998. He was the home town boy. And he was in contention on that Sunday. It was the worst, most meaningful train wreck I can remember. It was also a great example of grace on the part of a player. Mattiace talked to reporters afterward for as long as there were reporters with questions. Too many other players would have been looking for a place to hide.
Len Mattiace hitting the ball in the water comes to mind immediately. Scott Gump as well. I also remember Brad Fabels golf ball being swooped up by the bird. It would be easy to say Tigers putt ' which was great, but even Couples par (hole-in-three) was more electric.
Without a doubt the most memorable moment was Tigers birdie putt at 17 from the back of the green to the front hole location in the 2001 PLAYERS Championship.
Len Mattiace in 98 comes to mind first. And, for some reason, I also have a good recall of Craig Perks birdie there in the final round in 02. He had just chipped in for eagle on 16 to take a one-stroke lead and followed up by hitting a nice shot safely onto the green at 17. He then made the long birdie putt to go up to by two, before chipping in for par on 18 to seal an improbable victory.
Hot Topic
In regards to the 17th, what is the best spot at any event to watch live golf?
The best spot is probably behind the green on the seventh hole at Augusta National. Bobby Jones once wrote it was the best place on the golf course to see action on several different holes. Only problem is, a lot of people know it and it can get very crowded.
The 16th at the FBR Open or 11th/12th at Augusta. Im also a big fan of the 16th fairway at Hilton Head. Sneaky good for the gathering of folks who seem to congregate there.
The hillside left at 17 because you can watch the action at both 17 and 16 from that vantage point at the TPC Sawgrass.
On a couch. At home. Golf is much better to watch on TV than in person. But if you do go to an event, 17 at Sawgrass is a pretty good place to camp out. You can put down a blanket on the left, side hill, hang out and enjoy the show.
Hot Topic
Should THE PLAYERS Championship winner receive a 5-year exemption on the PGA TOUR?
I think THE PLAYERS winner should get a 10-year exemption, the way it used to be before they shortened it to five years in 1998. This is a big stage and the reward ought to be commensurate with the achievement of winning on it.
No. Three years is good by me. Five is a bit strong.
No. Three years at the most. THE PLAYERS is not a major. I have no problem with a major winner getting a 5-year exemption on the PGA TOUR, but not the winner of THE PLAYERS. It should be between that of a regular event and a major ' which is exactly what THE PLAYERS is.
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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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.”