Cut Line: Busy news week in the golf world

By Rex HoggardFebruary 1, 2013, 5:43 pm

Anyone who thinks the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is lively during the Waste Management Phoenix Open didn’t get a look at the Cut Line newsroom this week. From deer-antler spray to putts for 59 to a much-anticipated return to Winged Foot for the national championship, the last week of January may be remembered as the news cycle that wouldn’t rest.

Made Cut

Lefty. Nothing changes the conversation quicker than a historic round. That it was Phil Mickelson, a week removed from a media mea culpa over taxes, dictating the topic only added to the drama.

Lefty’s flirtation with golf’s magic number (59) on Day 1 in Scottsdale wrested golf away from a dialogue that has drifted from anchoring and bifurcation to deer-antler spray, not to mention California’s tax code and the role of athletes in politics, however temporarily.

And all this from a player who if not for a series of delays and hurried finishes last week at Torrey Pines would have missed the 54-hole cut at the Farmers Insurance Open (Mickelson was tied for 77th through three rounds in San Diego).

Golf is at its best when Phil is playing his best, a truth that was never more evident than it was on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale.

Fun. The word is not exactly associated with many modern golf courses which are widely stretched to obscene lengths to accommodate the 1 percent who play for pay with all manner of forced carries and white-knuckle tee shots.

While the focus during last week’s PGA Merchandise Show was on the possible ban on anchoring, many in the game will point to modern golf courses that are something less than user friendly as a primary impediment to growing the game.

It was a hot topic last Saturday during the grand opening of Streamsong Resort’s two new golf courses designed by Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore and Tom Doak.

“Televised golf and golf for professionals, so much is placed on difficulty and how to make things difficult,” Crenshaw told Cut Line. “But you try to offer something else for the golfing public and it’s a very difficult decision to put things together. You have to combine that with the reasons why you do courses. I tend to think occasionally we have forgotten about fun.”

That may explain why Crenshaw and Coore’s Red Course at the new Florida resort was appointed instant classics status from many observers.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

To 2020 and beyond. News this week that the U.S. Golf Association will return to venerable Winged Foot for the 2020 U.S. Open was widely applauded – even Mickelson hailed the news; although he may want to suggest fewer corporate tents down the left side of the 18th fairway for the ’20 championship.

The announcement, however, drew renewed attention to the USGA’s continued aversion for a return to Torrey Pines, site of the historic 2008 Open and an inspired venue for a much-needed SoCal championship.

“The USGA is trying to make a concerted effort, ever since ’02 going to Bethpage for the first time, (to go to) big public venues. (Torrey Pines) is the West Coast version, and it was amazing,” said Tiger Woods, who won his eighth professional title at Torrey Pines on Monday. “Torrey Pines and everyone here involved in it really made this tournament special, and I think the USGA will definitely come back.”

But the USGA doesn’t seem to share Woods’ enthusiasm for Torrey or the West Coast, or perhaps the blue coats just have a serious distaste for red-eye flights. There are currently just two West Coast stops for the Open through 2020 (2015 at Chambers Bay in Washington and 2019 at Pebble Beach).

Feeling the heat. Give USGA Championship Committee chair Tom O’Toole credit for stepping into the line of fire this week even if you don’t like the message.

O’Toole, on site at Winged Foot for Monday’s announcement the U.S. Open was returning to the layout in 2020, was asked about comments made by TaylorMade CEO Mark King regarding the ongoing anchoring debate and the growing support for the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf.

“The USGA within 10 years will be a non-entity; they will be a non-factor within golf because they are choosing to be on the outside, and no one is signing up for what they represent,” King said.

O’Toole deftly sidestepped the issue saying, “Our position has been that the game would not be benefited by bifurcation, and that's still our position.”

Missed Cut

Vijay Singh. In a statement on Wednesday, the Fijian said he was unaware the deer-antler spray he purchased from an Alabama-based company contained a substance banned by the Tour’s anti-doping policy and that he was “angry” for putting himself in this position.

While that statement may mitigate whatever punishment the Tour doles out – according to policy he can receive up to a one-year suspension and $500,000 fine for an initial violation – it does nothing to change his culpability.

On this the Tour’s policy, drawn almost directly from the World Anti-Doping Agencies’ regulations, is clear. Ignorance is no defense in the dogmatic world of anti-doping.

The only question that remains is how long his suspension should be and on this Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., should proceed carefully. Doug Barron is the only player suspended (one year) under the circuit’s anti-doping rules for testing positive for testosterone and beta blockers, which were both prescribed by his doctors for health reasons, in 2009.

It’s worth noting that Barron played the Tour last year on a therapeutic-use exemption that allowed him to use some of the same substances that got him suspended.

While Singh – who told a Sports Illustrated reporter that he had been using the deer-antler spray “every couple of hours . . . every day,” and was “looking forward to some change in my body” – has, by his own admission, conceded he sought a performance enhancement.

The Tour entered the world of anti-doping in 2008 to prove the sport was clean. As inflexible as those rules may seem now, there is no going back.

Tweet of the week: @JoshBroadaway “That (deer) antler spray didn’t do much for me when I took it. It just made me wanna start rubbin trees when I was in the woods huntin for my ball.”

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.