Cut Line: Follow the bubble

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2011, 7:47 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – For many, the last cut of the PGA Tour calendar is the harshest. There is no “next week” for the likes of Roland Thatcher and Rod Pampling, both mired around 125 in earnings and facing the very real possibility of Q-School after missing the Magic Kingdom cut.

Uber-agent Chubby Chandler didn’t have to wait until Sunday to hear the news that he’d been cut by a client for the second time in a month, while Greg Norman rounds out this week’s lineup in familiar fashion – taking a curious and questionable shot at Tiger Woods.

Made Cut

Money matters. Webb Simpson made it a long shot with his runner-up showing at The McGladrey Classic. Luke Donald made it interesting with his opening rounds of 66-71 at Disney. Both have added a measure of excitement to the Fall Series that has been missing.

A recent poll of Tour types ranked the money title relatively low on the preseason “to do” list, but this week Simpson and Donald have proven a point. Much like the FedEx Cup, Players Championship and Player of the Year Award, the money list is important when the players say it is.

This week at Disney, the two would-be cash kings have spoken very loudly.

Bubble theory. Give James Driscoll credit. At 125th in earnings the Boston-area native could have gone fetal and slunk out of the Magic Kingdom this week secure in the knowledge that he’s exempt into the final stage of Q-School and will at least have partial Tour status in 2012.

Instead, Driscoll opened with rounds of 66-70 and is currently tied for eighth place, which puts him safely inside the projected top 125.

Ditto for Spencer Levin – 32nd in earnings and trying to move inside the top 30 to secure spots in next year’s majors – and Heath Slocum – who is exempt in 2012 via his victory at last year’s McGladrey Classic but is trying to stay inside the top 125 and earn an invitation to The Players Championship. But then Disney always seems to produce more than its share of gutsy finishes.

On Tuesday last year’s Disney champion Robert Garrigus put the money-list pressure into perspective: “It's kind of like knowing you might be the CEO of a company, and if you don't play well you're going to be the janitor,” he said.

Michael Allen could turn out to be the week’s biggest “feel good” story. Allen, 52, is currently tied for fifth and trying to become the first player to win his first PGA Tour title after having won his first Champions Tour tile.

The happiest place on earth, indeed.

Tweet of the week: @bencranegolf  “It’s a girl! Saylor Mackenzie Crane 7.6 lbs. Momma and baby are doing great! #best24hourseverthankyouLord”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory McIlroy. Those surprised by the Ulsterman’s split with Chubby Chandler this week weren’t paying attention.

The U.S. Open champion surprised Chandler twice in recent years, most recently at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when he suggested he would likely return to the PGA Tour in 2012, and he joins a firm (Horizon Sports Management) that includes Graeme McDowell, who also bolted Chandler’s stable in 2010.

Yet McIlroy’s decision was not mean spirited. This move was all about business. Chandler, a former European Tour player, has been very successful at leveraging his stable’s successes, but his priorities did not always dovetail with those of the PGA Tour (see Championship, Players 2011).

This wasn’t personal, this was business, and Chandler, something of the Godfather of European golf, understands that better than anyone.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica. In theory, a Double-A circuit that opens doors for players in Central and South America is a non-starter – all at once altruistic and entirely useful considering the Tour’s interest in the region.

The devil, however, is in the details when it comes to the Tour’s planned expansion south.

“In a sense we have that with the Hooters Tour,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Policy Board. “Would we want to put that under the umbrella of the PGA Tour? I would say no.”

The new circuit appears to be a work in progress with an estimated 11 to 12 events the first season and surprisingly low purses (around $100,000). That the Nationwide Tour, the circuit’s version of Triple-A ball, is in search of a new umbrella sponsor also complicates things. Expansion is admirable, but doesn’t charity start at home?

Missed Cut

Timing is everything. Any other year Adam Hadwin’s efforts would have been enough to qualify him for “Cinderella” status. In just five events Hadwin has earned $440,752, which would be well inside the top 150 in earnings this year ($401,000) had he been a Tour member.

But Hadwin is not a member and because he didn’t match the top 150 in earnings from the 2010 money list ($563,000) he now has a date with the dreaded second stage of Q-School.

Nor does it help that Hadwin’s request for a sponsor’s exemption into Disney was overlooked. The fall is all about heartbreak in golf, but this seems a bit much.

Shark attack. Greg Norman has never sidestepped controversy but “Cut Line” can’t help but think The International Presidents Cup skipper stepped right onto a bulletin board with his comments this week about U.S. captain Fred Couples’ decision to make Tiger Woods a wild-card pick.

“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he's done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”

Lost in that logic is Norman’s decision in 2009 to pick Adam Scott for his team at Harding Park. The Australian had missed 10 of 19 cuts and posted just a single top 10 in ’09 and struggled to a 1-4-0 record, not exactly a “highest levels” resume.

It’s a simple rule - captains who live in glass golf carts may want to hold off on swinging ill-advised 9-irons.

Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.

Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.

CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.

LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.

Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”