Cut Line: Erin on the side of caution

By Rex HoggardJune 9, 2017, 4:41 pm

As the buzz builds for next week’s U.S. Open, we offer a national championship primer that covers the good (Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker), the fair (Adam Scott’s warnings) and the kooky (alternate list).

Made Cut

Family Man. Mickelson has lost a U.S. Open on the final hole (2006 at Winged Foot) and been beaten on the final hole (1999 at Pinehurst), but this is a first for Lefty.

Mickelson will likely not win the 117th U.S. Open because of a scheduling issue. Well scheduling, and a personal list of priorities that supersedes any professional aspirations – like his daughter’s graduation from high school.

Lefty revealed last week that barring some sort of delay on Thursday he’ll be skipping next week’s U.S. Open so he can attend his daughter’s graduation on June 15, the same day as the opening round of the lone Grand Slam event that Mickelson has not won.

Asked this week in Memphis if the decision to miss the U.S. Open was difficult, Mickelson’s answer was a testament to priorities.

“I love the Open, but this is a special moment for us,” he said. “I mean my daughter's speaking, she's giving the speech there at graduation. It's one of those things you just need to be there, so it wasn't a hard decision.”

Mickelson has found all sorts of ways to lose the U.S. Open, but picking family over potential fame is his best finish yet.

Home game. Stricker asked the USGA for a special exemption into the U.S. Open, which will be played about an hour from his home in Madison, Wis., but he didn’t expect the request to be fulfilled.

It wasn’t.

Instead, the 50-year-old U.S. Presidents Cup captain earned his spot the old fashion way, enduring the 36-hole sectional qualifier on Monday in Memphis, Tenn.

Stricker took medalist honors with rounds of 67-65 to secure his 20th career start at the U.S. Open and first since 2014.

“It was a good day. It means a lot. It's been at the forefront of my thinking for a while now. It's kind of a relief I got in on my own terms. I went through qualifying. I'd rather have it that way. I'm glad I did it this way,” Stricker said.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but imagine how Cheesehead Nation will respond if Stricker figures out a way to keep the fairytale going next week.

Tweet of the week:

The accompanying photo of Kisner’s caddie Duane Bock next to a new truck speaks volumes about the duo’s relationship. After Kisner’s victory last month at Colonial, Bock had this to say about his boss: “He impresses me every time he tees it up.” It’s really no surprise that Kisner is just as impressive off the course.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Warning label. It hasn’t been a great run for the USGA at the last few U.S. Opens. In ’15, Chambers Bay produced a worthy champion, Jordan Spieth, on a course that was neither user nor spectator friendly; and last year’s penalty involving Dustin Johnson still doesn’t add up to many.

Given the association’s recent history, and an untested venue at Erin Hills, Adam Scott’s not-so-subtle warning was fully warranted.

“Let's just have something that's a challenge and interesting, not just playing brutal,” Scott said last week at the Memorial.

Scott is one of the game’s most measured and respected voices and his take shouldn’t be ignored. While no one at the USGA will confirm that even par is the preferred winning outcome, consider that over the past 11 years, four U.S. Opens have been won with over-par totals.

“Maybe it's time to do away with the even-par target,” Scott said.

Or, maybe it’s time the USGA heeds some unsolicited advice.

Save the date. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua took to the internet this week to explain the association’s pending decision on whether to move the PGA Championship from August to May.

While Bevacqua was clear that “we have not made a decision” and he added that the PGA is “deep into analysis,” his 3 ½-minute video seems to set the foundation for the move.

Bevacqua explains that the championship would enjoy a stronger TV market in May, and the timing would be beneficial for PGA professionals who are just beginning their seasons and can use the exposure to enhance player development initiatives.

The PGA’s possible move to May appears to have taken on a new urgency in recent weeks, and Bevacqua’s video is only going to feed that notion but he seems to be sidestepping the real issue for the potential move and the entire schedule makeover.

A condensed season, outside of the shadow of football, is good for golf, not just the PGA of America or PGA Tour.


Missed Cut

Mystery theater. Every year the alternate list for next week’s U.S. Open becomes an issue and every year the USGA goes to ground like Jason Bourne.

Alternates for next week’s championship are picked from the sectional qualifying sites, but the USGA doesn’t make the priority list public.

The association does keep players informed of potential changes in order to give them time to make travel plans, but the formula for deciding alternates – which includes how many spots each sectional event was allocated, and the strength of field determined by the world ranking – is a closely guarded secret.

There’s little doubt the formula is complicated, it does include the world ranking, after all, and it would likely mean little to most golf fans; but the non-profit association that’s charged with overseeing the game in the United States should not be in the business of keeping secrets.

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.


Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:


Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''