Mickelson's WD raises many questions

By Jason SobelJune 1, 2012, 1:20 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – In the hours directly after Phil Mickelson’s withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament due to “mental fatigue,” I received hundreds of emails and tweets. Just about half felt that Mickelson should be exonerated from any wrongdoing because of his two decade-long commitment to competing in PGA Tour events without having any track record of bowing out early. Meanwhile, the other half believes he should be held accountable for quitting on the performance without seeing it to fruition.

The one thing we can all agree upon: This is a hot-button issue for which there are no easy answers.

That’s because there are so many different layers to the story. Without a clear-cut, yes or no conclusion to most of the questions currently being asked, we have to explore the gray areas. Let’s break down a few of the major components to this issue:

Does Mickelson have a greater responsibility than lesser-known PGA Tour players?

Four players withdrew from the Memorial following Thursday’s opening round. Each posted a score of 79 or worse. Of the four, only Tom Gillis listed a reason (back injury) for leaving the tournament early.

Of course, Gillis and fellow WDers Sang-Moon Bae and Boo Weekley don’t sell tickets or help draw television ratings like Mickelson. And yet, holding the Hall of Fame inductee to a higher standard is to claim inequality amongst the PGA Tour ranks.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but Mickelson never asked to be held more accountable just by winning. He never implored fans to buy tickets to see him, never insisted that they watch telecasts when he’s in contention.

That’s not to say that we can’t criticize him for withdrawing without physical injury, but if we do, we must also scrutinize every other PGA Tour pro who leaves early without a valid excuse every week – and yes, it does happen every week.

Is Mickelson being punished in the court of public opinion for his honesty?

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels hit Washington Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper with a pitch. When he was asked about it after the game, Hamels neglected the age-old unwritten rule about denying all culpability.

'I was trying to hit him,' the lefty said. 'I'm not going to deny it.'

Rather than play the innocent card, Hamels spoke the truth – and was widely criticized for it. Mickelson’s case is easily analogous. He could have cited a non-threatening tweak to his back or a shoulder, which in turn may have helped to explain why he shot 79. Instead, Mickelson told the truth, referencing his “mental fatigue” as the reason, leading to commotion and consternation among the masses.

Or did he? There’s scuttlebutt at Muirfield Village that Mickelson may have been mentally fatigued, but his rationale behind the decision was to send a message to the PGA Tour and this tournament about its cell phone policy, considering he appeared very distracted during the course of play on Thursday.

If that’s the case, then his punishment for being honest serves as delicious irony if he indeed wasn’t completely honest about the reason for withdrawing.

Does the PGA Tour need to rethink its cell phone policy?

In covering many tournaments in the season’s first five months, I’ve noticed that the rule in regard to cell phone use by fans remains wildly inconsistent.

Discussion: Your take on the PGA Tour's cell phone policy

There are some events in which any ticket-holder with a cell phone visibly showing anywhere near the rope line separating galleries from the action are told to put it away and threatened with revocation of their ticket; at other events, there is often little to no policing of the policy at all.

The simple fact is, with voluntary marshals attempting to protect the needs of competitors, there will never a streamlined enforcement policy to which all parties can agree. That said, there needs to be greater consistency from week to week. When it starts affecting play – as it did on Thursday – then it becomes an issue.

The easy answer is for the PGA Tour to ban all cell phones, but in today’s age, officials would risk losing many potential gallery members if cell phones were completely prohibited.

Should Mickelson be suspended or fined by the PGA Tour for withdrawing without an injury?

This one is simple: No.

According to the 2012 PGA Tour player handbook, Article IV, Section A-8 states: “Fatigue will not be considered a valid reason for withdrawing.” However, this particular rule only applies to players who withdraw after committing to a tournament and prior to beginning the opening round or those who withdraw during a tournament round.

After the completion of a tournament round, no reason for withdrawal is necessary. So based on the bylaws of the PGA Tour, he is not subject to any sort of punishment.

Which leads to…

Does the PGA Tour need a stiffer stance on its in-tournament withdrawal policy?

It happens every week. A player – or a number of players – will post an ugly number on Thursday, and then decide that instead of slogging through another 18 holes before slamming the trunk, he’ll cut his losses and head home one day early.

Sure, it would be nice for the PGA Tour to crack down on quitters, but there’s always an easy alibi in place, so it would be impossible to enforce.

Just a few weeks ago, Angel Cabrera hit three balls into the water on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, and then later withdrew from The Players Championship due to “personal reasons.” The announcement drew laughter from the assembled media contingent, which altogether considered three water balls to be very “personal.”

At least Cabrera gave a reason – whether it was genuine or not. The same can’t be said for other players on a week-to-week basis, but the level of wrongdoing can be endlessly debated.

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.