Cut Line: The Hall calls and Tiger talks

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2016, 6:03 pm

In this week’s Far East edition of Cut Line, the PGA Tour expands its influence in Asia, William McGirt chooses Jackson, Miss., over Shanghai and Tiger talks 18 majors.

Made Cut

Hall call. When the World Golf Hall of Fame overhauled its selection process in 2014 some, including your scribe, warned that the new 16-person selection committee had the potential to become too political.

Under the old system, hundreds of voters cast Hall of Fame ballots, which would make individual conflicts less impactful. But with just 16 voters, the potential for petty politics seemed more likely.

On Tuesday, the Hall announced the class of 2017, which includes Davis Love III, Meg Mallon, Lorena Ochoa, Ian Woosnam and Henry Longhurst. You can debate the merits of each inductee all you want, but collectively the selection committee’s decisions have proven to be worthy choices.

The new system may not be perfect, but after selecting two classes it’s hard to argue with the results.

Storm relief. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew earlier this month, officials at Harbour Town Golf Links have been working to clear some 800 trees that were lost and assess what damage, if any, was caused by the storm’s surge, which flooded parts of the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.

That recovery, however, was secondary as the entire Hilton Head community worked to return to normal, a process that may take months.

Even as officials assessed the damage to Harbour Town, home to the RBC Heritage since 1969, they were also coming up with ways the tournament could help the community rebound.

“There is a unique feel to this community and the rallying cry in helping out, from where we were last week to today is amazing. But it’s going to take a while,” said Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot. “We’re trying to figure out how best the Heritage Foundation can help the community.”

Golf is always at its best when it’s working to help others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Second still sucks. He may not be ready for primetime, but Tiger Woods still made plenty of headlines this week beginning with the unveiling of TGR, a new company for all of Woods’ off-course businesses.

He also spent time with talk show host Charlie Rose, where the two covered a range of topics, including his withdrawal from last week’s Safeway Open.

“It’s a hard realization knowing that I’m not scoring like I should be,” Woods said. “My feel for hitting 150-yard 7-irons and taking stuff off of it. All that stuff I kind of lost the feel of that.

“You’ve waited over a year to get back to this point, let’s be smart about it and not rush it. That’s my brain saying that, but heart is saying, ‘Tiger, let’s play.’”

There was also a bit of an odd exchange between Rose and Woods when the host asked if the 14-time major champion still believed he could reach Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 Grand Slam victories.

“To be honest with you, no,” Woods said, before adding, “I’ve accepted I’m going to get more.”

It’s nice to see inactivity hasn’t dulled Tiger’s competitive edge, but there is an old line that seems apropos – the only way to win a major, is to play in a major.

Expansion. News this week that the PGA Tour plans to expand its footprint in Asia with the addition of a new event in South Korea was hardly a surprise.

The circuit has now given players three events in Asia to pick from and made it easier to package starts in the fall. The move also gave the Tour a greater presence in an emerging golf market.

But like most moves involving the Tour schedule, the new event will not be a boon for everyone, with the added start likely making things harder for the domestic fall events that have carved out a niche for themselves since the advent of the wraparound schedule.

It’s seems unlikely the Tour would extend the fall portion of the schedule past the third week of November, which means a current event would have to be played opposite the South Korea tournament.

Giving members playing opportunities is part of the Tour’s DNA, but in this case it certainly feels like growing pains.

Missed Cut

Farm hand. To be clear, it’s not William McGirt’s decision to skip next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China that lands on the wrong side of the cut (that decision should be applauded), it’s the Tour’s inability to read a room that seems askew.

Fresh off a career year that included a victory at the Memorial, McGirt decided not to make the long flight to Shanghai. Instead, he’ll play the pro-am at the Sanderson Farms Championship, an event he’s played every year since 2011.

Tour rules don’t allow McGirt to play the opposite-field Mississippi stop since he’s qualified for the World Golf Championship, so he picked the only way he could to participate.

“I want to support a tournament I love and a cause I believe in,” McGirt said. “So that's what I'm going to do. I'd love to play in the tournament itself, but I can't. So I'm going to do whatever I can to help.”

There are probably plenty of reasons for the circuit’s opposite-event policy, but in this particular case common sense doesn’t appear to be one of them. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.