Cut Line: JD at 50, #SB2K16, and Rio 2016

By Rex HoggardApril 29, 2016, 4:05 pm

In this week’s edition of Cut Line, John Daly turns 50, Spring Break turns social for some of the game’s top players, and an overly crowded schedule turns some potential Olympians away from this year’s Games.


Made Cut

Daly’s second act. Perhaps no one in golf needs an occupational mulligan as much as John Daly, who turned 50 on Thursday and is poised to make his PGA Tour Champions debut next week at the Insperity Invitational.

Earlier this month, I spent a hectic morning with Daly in his rolling merchandise outlet on Washington Road, about a par 5 from the front entrance to Augusta National, and there was no denying his continued zeal for the game and how much he’s embraced this next chapter.

As he looks ahead, Daly didn't seem to have much interest in looking back at an eventful life both on and off the golf course. Instead, he's choosing to focus his energy on the one constant in his career – his fans.

For Daly, his legacy is a matter of perspective, and he understands that he means many different things to different people.

“It’s going to be like a politician,” Daly figured. “You take the good with the bad. You know some people are going to say what a disgrace I was, and others are going to say, 'He did great with charity work and has a heart of gold.'”

You may not agree with some of his choices, but you can’t deny his honesty.

Tweet of the week:

#SB2K16. Perhaps the most surprising part of the Bro-hamas vacation that was so well publicized via social media is the pushback the foursome of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas received.

Some in the media questioned the group’s decision to make their antics so public via a series of Snapchat posts.

Others, most notably Gary Player and Rory McIlroy, celebrated the week for what it was – a group of twenty-somethings doing what twenty-somethings do during spring break.

“After seeing all these Snapchats over the last few days, maybe I should have taken [Fowler] up on the invite!” McIlroy tweeted.

If there was one moment that gave us pause, it was Kaufman’s breakdown of Spieth’s chunked wedge shot at the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters. Although the Snapchat was unquestionably funny, it may have been too soon.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Progress or potential problems? The World Anti-Doping Agency released its annual doping violations report this week, a list of infractions that included six golfers.

The golfers were from Italy (three), France, Korea and South Africa, compared to just one golfer who was sanctioned on last year’s report.

The timing of the report was particularly interesting considering that any potential Olympians will be placed in a anti-doping testing pool on May 6 that is much more stringent than the methods used by the PGA Tour.

Ty Votaw, the vice president of the International Golf Foundation and the Tour’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told Golf.com that the report’s findings were a “validation of our testing procedures.”

Perhaps, but a significant portion of potential Olympians play the majority of their golf on the PGA Tour, which is not a signatory of the WADA code, and the circuit reported just a single performance-enhancing drug violation in 2015.

Maybe there is no need for concern as golf inches closer to its return to the Olympics, but as the WADA report suggests the anti-doping world is filled with possible missteps – both intended and otherwise.

Slippery slope. Things didn’t go exactly as planned for the United States Golf Association at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, but give the organization credit for embracing a more sustainable golf course in a market that has largely been devoid of championship golf.

On Monday, however, the USGA seemed to take a step back during media day for this year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when executive director Mike Davis was asked about the layout’s renowned difficulty.

“I think in the past,the course rating has been somewhere in the low 80s, so the average golfer, even if it's not setup for a U.S. Open, has no idea how exacting this golf course is,” Davis said. “I believe it's up [to an] 80, 81, 82 course rating when it's set up for the U.S. Open.”

To put that number in context, the rating for this week’s stop at TPC Louisiana is 76.3, and last week at TPC San Antonio, which was statistically the second-toughest course on Tour last year, the tournament rating was 76.5.

Harder doesn’t always mean better.


Missed Cut

Don’t blame it on Rio. On Monday, Charl Schwartzel joined Louis Oosthuizen on the sidelines for this year’s Olympics, announcing that he would be skipping the Games because of a “tight schedule.”

There has been no shortage of criticism of the South African’s decision to skip the Olympics, but the real blame should go to those tour executives who were unable, or unwilling, to accommodate golf’s return to the Games with a more user-friendly schedule.

After the U.S. Open, there will be virtually no rest for many players bound for Rio, with essentially mandatory starts at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational/French Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, Olympics and then onto the FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup.

If the various tours wanted to truly embrace the Olympic vision, the schedule needed to be reduced, not reworked. Maybe, as officials have said, the 2020 schedules will be more accommodating to prepare for the Games in Japan, but that didn’t make Schwartzel and Oosthuizen’s decision any easier this year.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.