Cut Line: Getting in (or out) of position for playoffs

By Rex HoggardAugust 18, 2017, 10:14 pm

In honor of Monday’s solar eclipse we went with a “path of totality” edition this week as the end to the PGA Tour’s regular season marks a deadline with many different meanings.

Made Cut

Pure Ice. Henrik Stenson told Cut Line last week at Quail Hollow that he’d added the Wyndham Championship to his schedule to assure he gets his minimum of 15 Tour starts this season and that, “I don’t feel any pressure, because I don’t have any pressure.”

On Friday, the aptly named Iceman proved the point with a 66 to move to within a stroke of the lead at 12 under par.

Although the Swede added the final regular-season stop to his dance card to assure he plays his 15 events, this week’s event is his 13th start and at 75th in the season-long points race he’s assured of playing the first two post-season events, he also understands the importance of positioning in the playoffs as well as anyone.

In 2015, when Stenson finished second in the season-long race he began the post-season 41st in points, and in ’13 when he won the title he finished the regular season at ninth.

“As long as you’re in it you can go all the way to win it ... I even got the punch line, slogan in there,” he smiled.

Season’s greetings. Maybe the Tour’s playoffs don’t hold the dramatic appeal that makes golf so entertaining, but the post-season does have its moments.

Normally, the playoff drama is reserved for Sunday at East Lake with $10 million on the line, but there are other times, like this week at the Wyndham Championship where players are scrambling to secure a spot inside the top 125 on the season-long points race and a start at next week’s Northern Trust.

Johnson Wagner opened with rounds of 67-64 to move into a tie for seventh, which would currently project him just outside the top 125 (127th) after starting the week No. 141 on the list.

Ryan Armour made an even bigger jump thanks to a second-round 61 to move into a share of the lead, jumping from 187th on the points list to currently inside the top 80.

The FedExCup can be confusing and has always been exceedingly complicated, but there are times when the drama is very real.

Tweet of the week:

Thomas, among the game’s most savvy when it comes to social media, was relatively quiet this week, which is understandable considering how dramatically his professional life changed on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

Don’t expect that to continue. Just imagine the possibilities for next spring now that the crew has completed the #SB2K18 Slam (Jordan Spieth ’15 Masters, U.S. Open and ’17 Open; Thomas ’17 PGA).

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Team player. When it comes to the biennial Solheim Cup matches Europe’s Suzann Pettersen is on the fiery side – think Patrick Reed without the cowboy boots.

So imagine how difficult the decision was for Pettersen to step down, announcing on Wednesday that she would be withdrawing from the matches because of a back injury.

“I have made this extremely difficult decision to help the European team and give my teammates the best possible chance of success,” she said in a statement.

Pettersen, who was replaced by vice captain Catriona Matthew in the Continent’s lineup, has been the heart and soul of the European team and she will be missed. She should also be applauded for not getting caught up in personal desires and doing what’s best for her team.

Major review. Last week’s PGA Championship marked the end of the major season and before we turn our attention to the playoffs or Presidents Cup, it’s worth going over some Grand Slam grades.

Two first-time major venues highlighted this year’s line up, with Erin Hills (U.S. Open) and Quail Hollow (PGA) joining the rotation to mixed reviews.

Erin Hills was supposed to be a brute at 7,740 yards, but little wind and soft conditions led to record scoring; while Quail Hollow proved to be the year’s most demanding test.

Both venues could use a little tinkering before they are thrust back into the major spotlight again – at Quail Hollow officials will need to do something about the fourth green, while Erin Hills and the USGA may want to rethink that fescue rough.

None of these things, however, should be deal breakers. Neither course was perfect, but both proved they deserve a second swing at the major plate.

Missed Cut

Missing the points. The key to real drama is equal parts victory and defeat, and for all the players making moves into the top 125 on the season-long points list this week there are just as many succumbing to the mathematical reality that their year is over.

Daniel Summerhays, No. 124 on the points list, missed the cut at the Wyndham and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and Ryan Palmer (128th in points) also failed to advance to the weekend with rounds of 72-71 and will finish outside the top 125.

Although he’s not playing the Wyndham, Adam Scott’s plight is just as final. Scott returned to Australia after the PGA to be with his wife, Marie, who was expecting the couple’s second child, and he will miss the first two playoff stops, which at 62nd on the points list means his season is likely over.

Maybe golf will never fit snuggly into the playoff ideal, but there’s no denying that there is an urgency to the post-season that wasn’t there before.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.