Cut Line: Big Three, NCAA finish, Doral controversy

By Rex HoggardJune 3, 2016, 8:43 pm

The Big Three reunite this week at the Memorial, a big finish at the NCAA Championship and a big decision to leave Doral could lead to a difficult future for the World Golf Championship and Florida swing.

Made Cut

A true title bout. With the exception of Longhorn nation, few could consider the final outcome of the NCAA Men’s Championship anything less than an instant classic.

Texas, the top-ranked team looking to be the first No. 1 seed to win the title since the event transitioned to match play in 2009, would have been the 800-pound gorilla if not for a game-time decision by Beau Hossler to not play in the final with an injured shoulder.

The drama further escalated when the title came down to the last match, with Oregon’s Sulman Raza rolling in a 6-footer for birdie on the 21st hole to secure the Ducks’ first golf title.

Hossler’s conceded match aside (seriously, for a title this important there has to be an option for replacements), the final was, by definition, a classic.

Big Three-peat. In consecutive weeks at the game’s highest level the best three players proved yet again they deserve their lofty status.

Jason Day cruised to victory at The Players, Rory McIlroy rolled at the Irish Open (arguably the Northern Irishman’s “fifth major”) and Jordan Spieth won the Dean & Deluca Invitational (again, a tournament with increased personal value given its proximity to his Dallas home).

“I heard a couple of weeks ago that it bothered Jordan that I was winning tournaments and have the No. 1 spot in the world, and it should. It should bother guys who are competitive and want to stay on top as well,” Day said this week at the Memorial. “I know I'm pushed that way as well when I see Rory or Jordan on top of the world.”

The era of Tiger Woods was defined by singular dominance and it was certainly historic; but the age of parity – be it among the Big Three or beyond – is proving to be just as entertaining.

“Unfriended.” The golf world got its first glimpse of Ted Bishop’s new book, “Unfriended,” on Callaway Live this week. While the book seems to have no shortage of controversy, by early accounts it is neither a tell-all nor sour grapes.

Bishop, who was removed as president of the PGA of America in 2014 after tweeting insensitive comments, said he hoped the book would offer some insight into many important historical events in golf during his tenure at the PGA.

“For me, it helped bring a little closure to the situation,” Bishop said. “I wanted the book to be positive.”

History will ultimately judge Bishop’s time in office, but having a platform to tell his side of the story is a good start.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Always about money. Funny how it goes when someone says it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money. In the case of the PGA Tour’s split with Donald Trump and Doral, the circuit has told anyone who will listen it’s all about the cash.

“I know everybody's talking about politics, but it's actually not that,” commissioner Tim Finchem said on Wednesday. “It's more Donald Trump is a brand, a big brand, and when you're asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament and they're going to share that brand with the host, it's a difficult conversation.”

From that difficult conversation will emerge an even more strained dialogue in the coming months as the Tour explains the World Golf Championship’s transition to Mexico City.

There has been no official announcement regarding the host venue in Mexico City for next year’s WGC and the scheduling will likely be awkward, at best.

Doral has always slid neatly into the Florida swing and even though travel has never been easier, this will not be a painless move for the other Sunshine State tournaments hoping to secure solid fields.

Whether it was money or politics, leaving Doral will not be easy.

Lefty’s legal issues. For the first time since being named a “relief defendant” in a federal lawsuit Phil Mickelson spoke publicly this week.

“I'd like to say that I'm disappointed to have been a part of that whole thing, but after a thorough investigation, I'm pleased that it's behind me, that it's over,” Mickelson said.

The bigger comments, however, came from Finchem when he was asked about Mickelson’s association with noted sports gambler Billy Walters, who is accused in the federal lawsuit of insider trading.

The Tour’s player handbook specifically says a member shall not “associate with or have dealings with persons whose activities, including gambling, might reflect adversely upon the integrity of the game of golf.”

Yet when asked if Mickelson’s association with Walters would prompt any kind of disciplinary action Finchem declined to comment, which is the Tour’s default response to uncomfortable situations. In this case, that silence only makes things more uncomfortable.

Missed Cut

Law & Order. Lawsuits are, by nature, rarely friendly situations, but Vijay Singh’s litigation against the Tour has become particularly acrimonious.

Singh’s attorneys filed a request for partial summary judgment in the Fijian’s lawsuit against the Tour over his use of deer-antler spray, which was initially considered a violation of the Tour’s anti-doping policy but later dismissed.

Among the legal issues, Singh has claimed that his treatment was arbitrary and the circuit breached its duty of good faith in administrating the policy.

Part of that claim involves Finchem’s statement to the media that the Tour dropped its case against Singh when the World Anti-Doping Agency adjusted its list of prohibited substances.

Singh’s lawyers, however, say WADA’s view of deer-antler spray had long been established but the Tour failed to keep up with the changes. During his deposition in December 2014 Finchem was asked to explain his public comments.

“Remarkably, Finchem refused to respond to the questioning about whether WADA ever changed the list or why he told the world that WADA had changed the list and, instead, stormed out of the deposition, and refused to return,” the filing for summary judgment read.

And here we thought the legal system was supposed to keep things civil.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.