Cut Line: Florida swing was a great scene setter

By Rex HoggardMarch 29, 2013, 10:40 pm

Before the PGA Tour transitions to Texas and beyond, Cut Line takes a look back at the good (Tiger Woods), the not so good (Phil Mickelson) and the downright ugly (Rory McIlroy) of the Florida swing.

Made Cut

Sunshine and the status quo. Following an eventful West Coast weather-wise, the Florida swing provided some stability (at least there were no snow delays), as well as a bit of competitive clarity and its share of curious moments.

Tiger Woods reestablished himself atop the Oficial World Golf Ranking with signature victories at Doral and Bay Hill and prompted more “is he back?” talk (as if he ever went anywhere).

At the other end of the competitive landscape, Rory McIlroy lost the No. 1 ranking and a few style points after bolting the Honda Classic 26 holes into his week with an ailing wisdom tooth; and Phil Mickelson proved as volatile as ever with his tie for third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and an unsightly missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The Florida swing may no longer be the unofficial start of the Tour season, but it certainly started people talking about the season ahead in 2013.

Timing. For those scoring at home, the next few weeks promise to be eventful whether the Masters lives up to expectations or not.

In no particular order, the USGA and Royal & Ancient will announce a final decision on the proposed anchoring ban (the loose timetable for the announcement has been this spring) and the PGA Tour will rule on the Vijay Singh deer-antler spray doping case.

If Singh is found guilty of violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy the circuit will make the fine public according to its own regulations. If he is deemed to be innocent the Tour will say nothing, although its silence will speak volumes.

And if all that weren’t enough to keep fans tuned in, the Masters is a fortnight away with the promise of something special, again. Few events produce drama with such on-demand regularity, and the powers that be at Augusta National already have things moving in the right direction with news this week that the club’s famous chicken sandwich will return to the Masters menu in 2013.

Even better will be the price for that deep-fried goodness: $3.

Tweet of the week: @JasonDufner “What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Slow study. To be clear, the Tour’s decision to embark on a yearlong study of pace of play will prompt more than a few punch lines (a year to study slow play, really?). But at least Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has embraced a leadership role in what is considered one of the game’s biggest issues.

What comes from the study – which was explained to the members of the Tour’s player advisory council and policy board last week at Bay Hill – remains to be seen, but at least they are talking.

“Torrey Pines (South Course) is everything that is wrong with our sport. It used to be a nice 7,000-yard golf course; now it’s a monstrous 7,600 yards. Golf courses have gotten too hard for the masses,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the policy board. “At some point in time golf course architects need to understand that 'hard' and 'good' are not synonymous.”

Lefty wondering. We’ve seen this act before: Lefty spends the weeks leading up to the Masters tinkering and toying with his swing and then flips the switch the moment he motors down Magnolia Lane.

At Bay Hill, Lefty finished his Thursday round with consecutive three-putts and recorded a four-putt (actually, it was a five-putt from the fringe) on his way to a Friday 79 and a missed cut. This week in Houston Mickelson rallied to make the cut on Friday but he was far from sharp.

But know this, as scratchy as Mickelson has appeared this spring his formula is hard to question. Consider that he has not missed a cut at Augusta National since 1997, he has finished outside the top 30 just once since then and has collected three green jackets since 2004. There is always a method to Lefty’s madness.

Missed Cut

Contracts. Because of small print in the deal between the Tour and the Texas Open this year’s Shell Houston Open was moved ahead one week on the schedule, out of its normal spot the week before the Masters, and replaced by the San Antonio stop.

Although the field in Houston didn’t take a hit because of the scheduling switch, it did seem to throw off the flow of what has become a tradition unlike ... well, you know.

Many players, including Mickelson, have used Houston as a tune-up for the year’s first major and organizers at the SHO have embraced the concept and dialed up green speeds at Redstone Golf Club to accommodate the Masters-bound masses.

But this year players and fans are left with an awkward flow which brings Cut Line back to a common concern – the Tour schedule should be based on competitive integrity, not contractual convenience.

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."