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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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  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.


    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.