Cut Line: Change is the only constant

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2014, 5:42 pm

After just one week it’s already been an eventful offseason with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club ending 260 years of all-male membership, Steve Williams possibly ending an eventful career and Billy Horschel ending the season with a week to remember.

Made Cut

Royal reversal. Things move slowly at the Royal & Ancient, but on Thursday, change arrived with the speed of a long-awaited announcement.

Royal & Ancient Golf Club secretary Peter Dawson announced the results of a vote that overwhelmingly reversed the club’s all-male policy. The measure was approved by 85 percent of the club’s 2,400 members.

“Times move on and I think all of them probably realize it’s a bit ridiculous in this day and age,” said Laura Davies, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the first 15 or so memberships that will be offered to women following Thursday’s vote.

For Dawson, who is set to retire in September 2015, the vote is sure to define his legacy. He may not have been an agent of change at the club or as chief executive of the R&A, which runs the Open Championship and oversees golf everywhere in the world except the United States and Mexico, but he subtly helped shape the future of both organizations.

Billy Ho. It was a good week for Horschel & family.

He began on Sunday at the Tour Championship when he held off Rory McIlroy and a host of other challengers on his way to his second consecutive victory, and his third top-2 finish in his last three starts, as well as the FedEx Cup.

That adds up to $12.8 million in cash and deferred prizes, which will come in handy after his wife, Brittany, gave birth to the couple’s first child on Wednesday.

Horschel won’t have much time to celebrate, however, as he’s scheduled to leave with the U.S. Ryder Cup team on Sunday . . . wait, never mind.

Tweet of the week.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

End of an era? It was not a surprise that caddie legend Steve Williams and Adam Scott announced this week the two were ending their “professional relationship,” but it does leave a few open-ended questions heading into next season.

Williams told reporters late last year he planned to cut back his schedule in coming seasons and seems destined to ride one of his race cars into his New Zealand golden years, but there will likely be no shortage of players who would be interested in working with the newest member of the Caddie Hall of Fame.

Scott clearly wasn’t interested in a part-time arrangement and is now in the market for a bagman. The world No. 2’s bag is sure to draw plenty of attention. As one Tour caddie told Cut Line this week, “There were a lot of guys going to Kinkos this week to dust off the resume.”

Mixed messages. It was a good news/bad news deal for Tiger Woods, who announced a new title sponsor (Hero) for his World Challenge on Monday.

Although Woods said shadow swinging without a golf club is the extent of his golf activities since the PGA Championship, his ailing back that has slowed him for most of this season is starting to improve.

“Some days I'm making bigger gains than others. Same days I'm backing off a little bit,” said Woods, who is scheduled to play the World Challenge in December.

“We're pretty much past the strength phase now, and I've got my strength where I want to have it, now I just need to get my fast twitch going and get my speed back, and that's going to take a little bit of time.”

Woods was also asked about McIlroy’s comments last week that he and Phil Mickelson were, “getting into sort of the last few holes of their career.”

“I thought it was funny. I mean, Phil has less holes to play than I do,” Woods laughed.

Well played.

Missed Cut

On Points. To be clear, this is not a D.A. Points problem. This is a PGA Tour problem. Unfortunately, Points found himself at the epicenter of a policy snafu that doesn’t seem to have an easy solution.

Points, who is exempt next year on the PGA Tour via his victory at the 2013 Shell Houston Open, decided to play this week’s Tour Championship to help bridge an offseason gap that spans two months. That’s when things got interesting.

It was brought to Points’ attention that his play at the secondary tour’s finale could impact the final money list and possibly keep someone from earning a Tour card.

“I thought unless I finish in the top 4 or 5 it wouldn’t make a difference [with the final money list], but then guys were on me about it,” said Points, who withdrew from the event on Wednesday. “I understand that and that’s not why I’m here. I’ve got a lot of friends who are playing in this. I’m not here to keep anybody from getting a job.” Tour president Bill Calfee told Cut Line that the issue will likely be addressed again, but added, “We felt like it would be hard to tell that player he couldn’t play based on that criteria. We shouldn’t be in the position of denying a player an opportunity to make his living playing golf.”

The wrong fit. In hindsight, perhaps U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson would have picked Horschel instead of Webb Simpson. Maybe even Chris Kirk may have gotten the nod had the picks been announced two weeks later.

Whatever the outcome of next week’s matches, however, the one thing the PGA of America should revisit is when the captain’s picks are made - which occurred nearly a month before the team sets out for Scotland this year.

This week Watson offered a familiar logistical refrain, “There are so many different things that go into it, just getting the players over there and getting ready.”

For the record, the entire team will be catching a chartered flight out of Atlanta on Sunday and if this is about uniforms, then the question is do you want the best team in Scotland or the best-dressed team in Scotland?

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm