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.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.