Cut Line: Do what you Love

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2012, 8:56 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – They call it “island time” in this slice of the Golden Isles, a gentle, languid pace that moves with all the urgency of swaying moss – and the golf seems to have taken a cue from the laidback landscape this week.

From McGladrey Classic host Davis Love III’s measured return to normalcy, to the U.S. Golf Association’s slow slide toward a resolution on the long putter debate, Cut Line goes off the clock for this week’s edition.


Made Cut

More than a caddie. There are no caddies in the World Golf Hall of Fame but let Cut Line be the first, or 10th, to unofficially nominate looping legend Fanny Sunesson for induction.

No, Sunesson never hit a shot that mattered, never holed a winning putt, never held a lead at a major championship, but as news surfaced this week that she has retired from the caddie yard because of an ailing back Henrik Stenson, her boss until late last year, put her worth in context.

“Her knowledge, her preparation, the way she carried herself on the golf course, you knew that if you didn’t have a piece of information, no one else in the field had it,” Stenson said. “When she was with me I always felt comfortable and she stayed with me the whole time, even when I wasn’t playing well. We were always a team.”

Sunesson’s resume would certainly be St. Augustine, Fla., ready, with four major championship victories with Nick Faldo along with the 2009 Players Championship and 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play with Stenson.

And if all that wasn’t enough, imagine the induction party. Caddies always throw the best parties.

Tweet of the week: @NickFaldo006 (Nick Faldo) “As we strode down the 14th fairway (at the) Open in 1990 two (shots) ahead, to break the tension Fanny asks, ‘Are you thinking of getting a dog?’”

Moving on from Medinah. Late Thursday night, hours after he’d signed for a first-round 65 at The McGladrey Classic, Davis Love III was putting the finishing touches on a party for Tour players and their families at his home when someone asked his plans for Friday morning?

“Paddle boarding,” he smiled, however wearily.

It would have been easy, and perfectly understandable, for Love to go “underground” in the wake of last month’s Ryder Cup loss (there is still an APB out for Hal Sutton), but that’s not really his style.

Instead Love played the next two events after Medinah and arrived home to St. Simons Island this week with a full plate of hosting duties, including his final policy board meeting as a player director during Monday and Tuesday’s pairings party at his house.

The full slate was probably helpful considering America’s Sunday collapse at Medinah. “(Zach Johnson) asked if I was over the Ryder Cup yet and I said, ‘No, I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.’ It was so much fun to be part of that team,” Love said on Thursday.

Love will always be “that captain” to middle America, but to so many others he is much more than the sum of his Medinah parts.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A true farm system. The PGA Tour seemed to inch closer to a more detailed development system this week with news that the Canadian Tour would become the PGA Tour Canada, complete with access to the Web.com Tour for the circuit’s top players.

Like the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, which debuted this year, the top 5 players from the Canada circuit’s money list will graduate to the Web.com Tour and the next five will receive exemptions to the final stage of Q-School.

It is curious, however, that an organization that once seemed void of an atlas, (considering that three of the four World Golf Championships are played within the confines of the Lower 48) has forgotten that charity starts at home.

The global development of the game is encouraging, but what of the thousands of young American golfers who would welcome the same chance as their colleagues in South America and Canada?

For American college players who don’t ace their first Q-School test, the alternative is a year north or south of the border. Give the Tour credit for growing the game, but it just seems like they missed a step along the way.

The long journey for long putters.The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club seem to be inching toward a resolution on long putters, and anchoring.

On Monday USGA executive director Mike Davis made a presentation to the Tour’s Policy Board at Sea Island. Although an official statement from the USGA suggests that the ruling bodies are still deliberating on the issue, one source who attended Monday’s meeting told Cut Line that “they’ve made up their mind (to ban) and just want someone to agree with them.”

An announcement is still expected before the end of the year, but we’d like to offer a little advice – when removing Band-Aids it’s best to be quick about it.


Missed Cut

Left field. During a conference call earlier this week, officials for the Tiger Woods World Challenge noted that this year’s field would feature 13 Ryder Cup players, which prompted one golf scribe to ask, “You couldn’t talk Phil (Mickelson) into playing?”

Without pause Woods deadpanned, “It was his decision.” Rarely does Tiger offer so much insight with such an economy of words.

Earlier this year Woods raised some media eyebrows when word spread that Mickelson tried to arrange a pre-Masters practice round at Augusta National with the world No. 2 but Woods declined.

Some viewed the invitation as a peace offering to thaw what is widely considered an icy relationship, but if Lefty really wanted to make nice he would make the drive up the SoCal coast and play the World Challenge for the first time since 2002.

A Mickey Mouse moment. According to one source who has seen the tentative 2013-2014 schedule, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is not on next year’s calendar.

Although there is still time, and according to tournament officials a desire, to round up a new sponsor for next season, removing Disney from its status as the final regular-season event removes a level of prestige that came along with it. Not to mention an added expense with the former fall series events forced to increase their purses to FedEx Cup levels ($6 million), all making the “Happiest Place on Earth” a much more difficult sell.

“We’ve decided the best thing is to put all of our focus on the 2012 event, and after that we will look to the future,” Disney tournament director Kevin Weickel said this week.

Perhaps this is no more than economic Darwinism, but losing a Tour stop that’s been around since 1971 would be like, well, standing in line at Space Mountain for an hour.

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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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.”