Cut Line: Fun reigns and a Twitter storm

By Rex HoggardApril 28, 2017, 3:32 pm

In a trailblazing edition, Cut Lines takes a deep dive into new formats, new decisions regarding the use of video replay and new leadership at the PGA Tour.

Made Cut

The new normal. This week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans is the first official team event on the Tour since 1981 and next week’s GolfSixes tournament on the European Tour will be an entirely new way to experience professional golf.

For a game that’s often criticized for being mired in its stodgy traditions, the new formats are a bona fide break from the traditional 72 holes of stroke play.

“We were talking about it on the range with a couple of other guys, and I think this would be fun if we had a couple of these events a year,” Jordan Spieth said this week at TPC Louisiana. “I think you’d still see a deeper field.”

This week’s two-man team format at the Zurich Classic has attracted one of the deepest fields to New Orleans in decades, with 13 of the top 25 in the world ranking (last year just 10 of the top 50 played the NOLA stop) teaming for two rounds of alternate shot and two of better-ball play.

There will always be room for traditional formats, but experiments like this week in Louisiana and next week in England will only give fans more reasons to pay attention.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Simply put. When the game’s rule makers start throwing around phrases like “naked-eye standard” and “reasonable judgment” it’s impossible not to take notice.

Although the USGA and R&A didn’t use the term “common sense,” that’s essentially what this week’s announcement meant to those who play the game at the highest level.

Officials will now have a more broad ability to assess possible infractions during replay reviews that could “reasonably have been seen with the naked eye.” Players will also be given more leeway when taking drops or determining a particular line, “as long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination.”

These adjustments were billed as “limitations on use of video evidence,” which is understandable given the game’s recent run-ins with replay (see Thompson, Lexi 2017 ANA Inspiration).

While any adjustment to the Rules of Golf that allows for a measure of common sense is welcome, exactly where this new technological line will be drawn is not exactly known; and what golf needs right now is more answers, not more questions.

First 100 days. No, not that guy. Earlier this month (April 10), Jay Monahan marked his 100th day in office as PGA Tour commissioner with much less fanfare than the guy who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

By all accounts, Monahan has been the energetic and engaging leader everyone thought he would be, ushering in what many consider a new era in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The increasingly crowded Tour schedule, however, continues to be an issue. Earlier this season some players balked at having two World Golf Championships in a four-week window, and things will get more interesting in the coming weeks as the European Tour enters a crucial part of its new Rolex Series schedule.

Monahan has been clear that his plan is to end the season earlier and condense the biggest events into a better-defined window. To do this the new commish will need to make some tough choices and work hand in hand with the European Tour, which – as the other guy celebrating his first 100 days in office has learned – is more challenging than he probably imagined.

Missed Cut

No, thank you. Steve Stricker figured it was a long shot but given the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s U.S. Open he decided to ask the USGA for a special exemption.

“I wrote them quite a while back and asked for one, and they politely called me and declined,” Stricker told the Associated Press.

This year’s U.S. Open is at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, about an hour from Stricker’s home in Madison, and at 50 the native son figured this would be his last chance to play a “home” major.

The USGA has granted special exemptions in the past, including Retief Goosen last year, but it is rare and the association is understandably reluctant to dole out free passes to the national championship.

But if Stricker, who remains competitive on Tour and will captain this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team, doesn’t qualify as a worthy recipient Cut Line isn’t sure who would.

Tweet of the week:

Gillis, who played seven seasons on the Tour but hasn’t made a start since last year’s Wyndham Championship, went on to explain that Crane lost a $6,000 bet earlier this season in Phoenix, but declined to say who Crane lost to.

Charley Hoffman posted on Instagram that it was Daniel Berger who won the putting contest; and after his round on Thursday Crane told reporters “we’re all good. We had a great conversation about it.”

Berger confirmed that the issue had been “handled,” but the social media brouhaha proves that what happens in Phoenix doesn’t always stay in Phoenix.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.