Cut Line: Change is inevitable on PGA Tour

By Rex HoggardApril 27, 2012, 4:45 pm

In honor of this week’s Zurich Classic, Jazz Fest and the bottomless plate of BBQ shrimp, Cut Line is taking a soulful approach to this week’s edition, starting with a call for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to embrace the future and the possibility of a new start for the circuit in the “City That Care Forgot.”

Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Made Cut

Hugs. All this time we thought professional football’s popularity in relation to golf was a byproduct of the game’s violence and the inherent loyalties of a team sport when in fact the NFL’s dominance seems born from a softer side that begins at the top.

There it was in HD clarity, over and over again, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell embracing the next pick in Thursday’s draft with emotion that would make Dr. Phil proud.

If the Tour really wants to cut into football’s popularity we suggest marching Finchem out to the 18th green at Q-School this year ready to dole out a Tour card, a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., cap and a hug.

Peter Dawson. It is, as far as the PGA Tour is concerned, a dead issue. As long as the current regime remains in Ponte Vedra Beach the circuit’s policy to not publish fines or disciplinary actions will remain the status quo, but it is worth revisiting when the chief of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decides to swim upstream.

“I have gone on record saying that more public sanctioning would not be a bad thing,” Dawson said this week. “One would have thought more public sanctions would be more likely to lead to a correction of behavior rather than private sanctions.”

For the record, the Tour’s policy is to only publish fines and punishments when a player violates the circuit’s anti-doping program – and only then when the offending drug is considered performance enhancing, not recreational.

Imagine, however, if the Tour published the list of players who had violated its slow play policy. A private monetary fine is one thing, the public scorn of being labeled a snail in print – now that’s preemptive.

Bayou District Foundation. News this week that the plan to create an East Lake-like neighborhood in New Orleans’ City Park is a reason to “second line” on many levels.

The planned Rees Jones-designed course promises to be a dramatic upgrade over the Zurich Classic’s current home. Moving the event to City Park, which is just minutes from downtown and the French Quarter, would improve the event’s appeal to local fans and let’s be honest, there’s little chance Jones could design something worse than the TPC, which ranked 45th out of 52 Tour courses in a player poll last year.

“One of the courses (in City Park) is going to be designed as a championship venue,” said Joe Ogilvie, who has been involved in the City Park initiative since his days on the Tour Policy Board. “I’m guessing that’s the city’s goal (to host the Zurich Classic at City Park). It would be a big bonus if the Zurich moved to City Park, but the project is going to get done either way.”

Even if the Zurich stays put on the wrong side of the Mississippi River the Bayou District Foundation, which has spearheaded the restoration project, has already been a success having transformed the neighborhood surrounding City Park.

Tweet of the week: @WestwoodLee “Retief grey goose (Goosen) on the Robert rocks (Rock) with a slice of Jose Phillpe [sic] lime (Jose-Filipe Lima). Can’t get better than that! #BoozyFourBall.”

Westy may be ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking, but the Englishman is the undisputed leader in the Twitter index.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bubba Watson. The in-demand Masters champion got back to work this week in New Orleans and the not-so-bashful-prince deserves style points for honoring his commitment to play the Zurich Classic.

Where Watson seemed to get sideways was during his press conference on Tuesday at TPC Louisiana when he made at least nine references to “the media’s” short attention span and its penchant to distort facts.

While much of the media’s reputation is well deserved and many of Watson’s references were made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, there was a curious and concerning undertone to his comments.

By almost all accounts Watson has been dubbed a media darling since slipping on the green jacket and even before his major breakthrough Cut Line can think of just a single episode – during last year’s French Open when he ran afoul of the local press when he referred to the “big tower” (Eiffel) and “some archway” (Arc de Triomphe) – when he hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt by the press.

Watson has made a decision to embrace the spotlight, which is certainly his right and infinitely understandable, but he must understand that scrutiny and stardom are not mutually exclusive.

Olympic effort. It is difficult, if not impossible, to question U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis’ U.S. Open handiwork in recent years (see Torrey Pines, 2008), but the organization’s last-minute scramble to add a fairway bunker to the Olympic Club’s 17th hole is at the least a reason to sit up and take notice.

Davis authorized the new hazard on the 17th, which will play as a par 5 for this year’s championship, in a strategic attempt to persuade more players to go for the green in two shots.

Although the idea (the potential for more late-round excitement) is compelling, the execution (less than two months before the Open) is concerning.

Missed Cut

World golf ranking. We’ve wasted no small amount of space in this column railing against the math and madness that is the ranking, but last week’s calculations deserve a “Missed Cut” encore.

At issue is the payment of appearance fees by international tours, a practice that essentially allows events to pay for world ranking points. Consider Lee Westwood’s victory at last week’s Indonesian Masters, a haul that landed him 20 ranking points. On the other side of the globe Ben Curtis ended a title drought at the Texas Open and collected 24 points.

With respect to the Asian Tour, if the difference in field quality between the two events is a mere 4 points the folks in San Antonio may want to consider asking for a bit of a refund for their $6.2 million purse.

One longtime Tour observer suggested a possible fix that would remove whatever points the two highest-ranked players bring to the table in every field each week. It may not be the solution to the pay-for-points problem, but it’s a start.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

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."