Cut Line: Fowler takes new approach to fall sked

By Rex HoggardNovember 10, 2017, 5:58 pm

We lead off a Veterans Day edition with a look at golf’s ongoing support of America’s heroes, while judgment day may be closing in on Colonial Country Club.

Made Cut

Fall forward. While Cut Line is a big fan of last week’s time change being something of a dew sweeper, it’s Rickie Fowler’s decision to test the fall waters that deserves a closer look.

Fowler said this week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, an event he’s playing for the first time, that he wanted to try something new this fall. Instead of playing the WGC-HSBC Champions in China like most top players, he took five weeks off following the Presidents Cup.

“I wanted to look at this fall and winter as a time to create an off-season,” Fowler said. “Enjoy the relaxation and get some time in the gym to get ready to go in January.”

Most players opt for the no-cut options in Asia to start the season, but there is a cost to be paid for that much travel on the back end of what is already a long year.

Whether Fowler’s decision pays off remains to be seen, but there is something to be said for outside-of-the-box thinking.

Veterans Day. Cut Line always appreciates how much support is generated for American heroes during Veterans Day, and it’s also a chance to value how dedicated golf is to giving back to those who gave so much for the nation.

From the Folds of Honor, an Oklahoma-based charity that has raised nearly $100 million for educational scholarships for the families of fallen or disabled American military members, to Birdies for the Brave, which was created by Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans and has donated over $18 million, the game is uniquely suited to honor and support those who have served and sacrificed.

Earlier this year, Cut Line wrote a feature about Edward Gizara, a former Marine drill instructor who was injured in training and told he’d be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Gizara learned to walk again and now plays golf at least once a week. But more importantly, he runs the Adaptive Golf Program in Savannah, Ga., which is designed to encourage those with disabilities and challenges to play the game.

For Gizara and those like him, every day is Veterans Day.


Tweet of the week: @JustinRose (Justin Rose) “Like buses!!” Rose’s tweet referred to his comment following his victory on Sunday at the Turkish Airlines Open, just a week after the Englishman had won the WGC-HSBC Champions.

“It’s like buses. You wait ages for one, and then two turn up,” he smiled.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bidding wars. We’ll match your U.S. Open with a PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup wild card.

Perhaps the negotiations were more complicated than that, but essentially that was the offer the PGA of America gave to San Francisco’s iconic Olympic Club, which had hosted the U.S. Open five times and seemed to be a lock for a future visit.

Instead, club officials agreed to the deal with the PGA and will host the 2028 PGA Championship and ’32 Ryder Cup.

It was clear the draw of the Ryder Cup was what compelled club officials to embrace the PGA’s offer.

“It’s Alabama-Auburn on a Saturday afternoon,” Olympic Club president Dan Dillon told the San Francisco Chronicle.

There’s little doubt Olympic Club is a solid move for the Ryder Cup, which hasn’t been played on the West Coast since 1959, but much can change in 15 years and a decade from now this deal could look much different.

Owning it. It’s easy to criticize, just scroll through your social media feed to prove the point.

What’s often difficult is owning a mistake, particularly for a man like Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner who admitted this week on Golf Channel that moving the Evian Championship to September was wrong.

Whan was criticized this year over his decision to scrub scores from the first round in France and then to shorten the major championship to 54 holes after multiple weather delays, which have become the norm since the event moved to September.

“The challenges we’ve faced are man-made,” Whan said. “And I’m the man who made them.”

Whan said the tour will move the Evian “back to a summer date,” by 2019. Mistakes are human, but responsibility is often a rare trait.


Missed Cut

Collateral damage. Although the details are still being worked out, it seems the Tour is inching closer to a condensed schedule beginning in 2019. While that may intrigue some it seems these moves won’t occur without a cost.

Recent news that Dean & DeLuca informed organizers at Colonial Country Club that they may not be able to meet their financial obligations to sponsor the tournament in 2018 has created more than a short-term bind.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, officials at the annual Tour stop have until Dec. 1 to resolve their sponsorship issues. What that exactly means is unclear, but it doesn’t sound encouraging.

The sweeping schedule changes proposed for ’19 include the PGA Championship moving from August to May and a Labor Day finish for the Tour season, all of which could make the Colonial stop expendable.

In fact, according to one source at the club, Colonial’s board voted on Wednesday to move the annual member-guest tournament from mid-October to May, the same month as the Tour stop.

It’s an altogether stunning development considering the annual Tour stop has been a staple on the schedule since 1946, when Ben Hogan won the first of his five Colonial titles and why the layout is dubbed Hogan’s Alley.

There’s a larger-than-life statue of Hogan overlooking Colonial’s 18th green and The Hawk doesn’t look happy. It’s an apropos image considering the club’s potential Tour fate.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.