Cut Line: Doubling down in the desert

By Rex HoggardJanuary 30, 2015, 9:32 pm

With all eyes on Arizona for this week’s Super Bowl, the Waste Management Phoenix Open proves to be a compelling prelude with or without Tiger Woods, while Robert Allenby pines for answers ... just not from the media.

Made Cut

Super stop. Perhaps the “greatest show on grass” isn’t your brand of vodka, but there is no denying the reach of this week’s stop at TPC Scottsdale.

In tandem with Sunday’s Super Bowl, which will be played about 30 miles down the road at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the event finds itself at the epicenter of the sports universe.

The convergence of Sunday’s big game with Tiger Woods' and Phil Mickelson’s presence in the field was expected to generate record attendance at an event that rarely struggles to fill seats.

For a sport that largely tries to avoid the vast shadow cast by the NFL, the week’s festivities are a perfect combination of sport and entertainment.

Captain curiosity. While the PGA of America still appears a few meetings shy of naming the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, the race for the ’16 European captain’s chair also seems to be heating up.

While Darren Clarke appeared to be the front-runner for next year’s matches, word surfaced last week from the Continent that Miguel Angel Jimenez is mounting a late charge.

“At the moment it would look as if it’s down to two of us, between Miguel and myself,” Clark told the Irish Golf Desk. “I’m sure whoever the committee decides will do a great job.”

There had been some who considered Jimenez’s limited English a liability, but it seems the selection committee has other ideas.

Cut Line doesn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but just imagine how entertaining the matches will be with Jimenez on one sideline and Fred Couples on the other –  cigars and Merlot for everyone.

Tweet of the week: @RyanPalmerPGA (Ryan Palmer) “Ready for a fun day (at the Waste Management Phoenix Open). Twelve lucky fans on 16 get a beer on me today. Yes, ball wrapped in a $10 bill.”

For his effort Palmer enjoyed a bit of good karma, opening his week with a 64 for the first-round lead.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The cost of justice. Rory McIlroy has tried to sidestep inevitable questions about his upcoming trial against his former manager, but this week in Dubai the world No. 1 conceded that the proceedings are taking a toll.

“It’s not something that I would want anyone to go through,” McIlroy said. “It’s a very sort of tedious and nasty process ... Yeah, look, I’m going to be heading to the States regardless with it off my mind and not having to deal with it or think about it. That will be it.”

For McIlroy this is a principled stand, but at what cost? He may save himself millions of dollars in commission fees but if he costs himself a green jacket will it have been worth it?

Tiger 4.0h! It’s too early to draw any real conclusions. It certainly seems a tad premature to use the “Y” word (yips), yet that was the consensus among many observers after Woods posted his worst round as a professional (82) and missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday.

Like at December’s Hero World Challenge, Woods’ short game was wildly substandard in his first official Tour start under the Chris Como program. While his ball-striking, and particularly his increased swing speed, was encouraging, there is no way to sugar-coat an 82 that left the former world No. 1 last in the field of 132 players.

Despite his pedestrian start to the Como era, it’s still best to avoid snap judgments. Golf is, after all, a game that defies instant analysis; but a few more weeks like this and Como will discover that some honeymoons can be surprisingly short.

Tweet of the week II: @KyleThompsonPGA (Kyle Thompson) “I battled the putting yips in 2012 on the PGA Tour and understand what Tiger is facing. It’s not something I’d wish upon my worst enemy.”

Missed Cut

Robert Allenby. The Australian returned to action this week at TPC Scottsdale and promptly called his own news conference to ask the media to let investigators do their job unraveling an incident that occurred on Jan. 16. Never mind that it was an incident he promptly told the world about via the media on Jan. 18.

“I understand the way the media works,” Allenby said on Tuesday. “You know, at the end of the day, what's happened has happened. The police will come out with the right story, so please, let them do their job, don't get in the way of them, and everything will be great.”

The Australian was angry with the media for attempting to unravel what happened during his harrowing 2 1/2-hour odyssey on Jan. 16 in Honolulu, when he told police he was kidnapped, robbed, beaten and thrown from the trunk of a car.

“What has been blown out of proportion a little bit is I was a victim, and all of a sudden you're putting all the blame on me,” he said.

Allenby is correct, he is a victim. Someone took his wallet, and phone, and has run up some $25,000 in fraudulent charges, according to Allenby. The rest of his story remains a mystery that Allenby, of all people, should want unraveled regardless of who is piecing the night together.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry