Anchored putters, beta blockers and comebacks

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2012, 2:16 am

The impending ban on anchoring and long putters has plenty of play-for-pay types feeling anxious; just don’t expect a run on beta blockers to ease frayed nerves. Both issues bookend a nervous edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

The good fight. Jarrod Lyle, who was sidelined earlier this year with his second bout with leukemia, met with reporters this week in Australia and suggested that he may not have given up on his dream of playing professional golf.

“I do want to get back to golf at some stage but I guess if I never hit another shot I'll be happy,” said Lyle. “As long as I've got my health and as long as I've got my family with me I'm a happy boy.”

Cut Line has plenty of issues with the capriciousness of the Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year award (see Missed Cut), but if Lyle ever pegs it in another Tour event they should rename the award in Lyle’s honor and retire the chalice.

Tweet of the week I: @IanJamesPoulter “Kingston Heath is totally awesome. Someone please tell modern day architects we don’t need 8,000 yard tracks. They’re not enjoyable.”

Not sure Poult’s message needs any further explanation, but it’s worth pointing out that just eight of 49 Tour courses in 2012 came in under 7,000 yards, while 15 layouts measured over 7,400. #Discuss

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Beta testing. A New York Times story this week examined panic attacks and the use of beta blockers to help combat anxiety on Tour. The story came in the wake of Charlie Beljan’s emotional victory last week at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic after he was hospitalized on Friday following a panic attack.

It’s worth pointing out that a source close to Beljan confirmed to Cut Line last week that he wasn’t given any medication and experience suggests that even if he were given beta blockers to help alleviate his anxiety they likely wouldn’t have had time to impact his play at Disney.

Cut Line didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night but we have spent enough time with Doug Barron – the only player ever suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping policy for testing positive for beta blockers, and synthetic testosterone, in 2009 – to know there is no quick fix.

Beljan didn’t win because he had a better drug. He won because, at least for one week, he had a better game than anyone else.

The slow burn. We’re starting to see what Davis Love III meant when he advised officials from the U.S. Golf Association last month that whatever decision they make regarding long putters and anchoring, it should be made quickly.

Chatter is reaching a crescendo as the golf world awaits the announcement later this year, including this missive from Graeme McDowell in Australia: “They're convinced the research has shown that under pressure on a Sunday afternoon the long putter just kind of takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke. It just makes it physically easier to stroke the putter when the nerves are there (and) I think we should be leveling the playing field (by banning it).”

Brandt Snedeker joined the conversation on Thursday’s “Morning Drive:” “Their (USGA and R&A) charge is protecting the game of golf, not making sure it's OK for Tour players. What's best for the game of golf might hurt a couple guys in the short run, but it might benefit the game in the long run.”

The only sliver of good news is that with all the handwringing over a potential anchoring ban, we’re not talking about how far players hit the golf ball . . . oh, wait.

Tweet of the week II: @Willie_Mack_III (professional Willie Mack III) “Today’s relationship status with my golf is: It’s complicated.”

The Flint, Mich.-based Tour hopeful was reacting to his first-round 76 at the second stage of Q-School this week, but Cut Line had a chance to watch Mack play at Southern Hills Plantation and was impressed. Mack and his game may not work things out in time for this year’s final stage, but he is certainly entertaining.

Missed Cut

De Nile. The general rules on this are rather clear, a slumping player switches clubs, caddies and eventually wives in an attempt to wrest themselves off the schnied, but Cut Line can’t help but think that the only thing Lee Westwood needs right now is a mirror.

According to a report on Thursday in the Daily Mail the Englishman has split with caddie Billy Foster, who missed much of the season with a knee injury, and his newly hired short-game coach Tony Johnstone. After the PGA Championship Westwood, who has slipped from No. 1 in the world golf ranking in May 2011 to fourth, split with swing coach Pete Cowen.

We know there are two kinds of caddies and swing coaches on Tour: those who have been fired and those who are about to be, but Westy may be taking that cliché a bit too far.

Don’t call it a comeback. Ballots for PGA Tour Player and Rookie of the Year went out this week with a combined 10 players nominated for their respective awards – with all due respect to Bubba Watson, we’re not sure one victory, albeit a big one at Augusta National, rates POY consideration.

Absent from the ballot for the second consecutive year, however, were nominees for Comeback Player of the Year. The Tour, or maybe it is the Policy Board and Player Advisory Council, have soured on the Comeback award in recent years, perhaps as a result of Steve Stricker claiming the honor in back-to-back years (2006-07).

Cut Line understands that some years there will not be a viable Comeback candidate, but explain again how J.B. Holmes doesn’t rate consideration in 2012? How about Ben Curtis? Or even Tiger Woods?

Holmes had brain surgery in September 2011 and yet played well enough this season to keep his card, while Curtis hadn’t finished inside the top 100 in earnings in three consecutive seasons but won the Texas Open this season and finished runner-up at The Players to finish 30th in earnings.

And Woods won three times in ’12 following the two worst years of his career and made a run at the Player of the Year trophy. It was, by any definition, a comeback from injury, both physical and otherwise. Just don’t expect the Tour to acknowledge it.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”