Cut Line: Mid-term grades for Spieth, Day, Woods

By Rex HoggardApril 22, 2016, 5:23 pm

This may come as a surprise to those who don’t start paying attention to golf until the Masters, but this week’s Valero Texas Open is the official turn of the PGA Tour season.

San Antonio is the 24th of 47 Tour events, which means it’s time for mid-term grades with a nod to an exceedingly busy second half of the season – which will include three majors, a Ryder Cup, Olympics and FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Jordan Spieth (B-). Things started well enough with an eight-stroke romp at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but they haven’t been the same since.

Spieth dropped out of the top spot in the World Golf Ranking last month, failed to post a top-5 finish on the Tour until Augusta National and blew a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play at the Masters.

Along the way Spieth made stops in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, which some believe has left the 22 year old in a perpetual state of jetlag. Spieth seemed to acknowledge as much before leaving Abu Dhabi in January.

“I'll get back to the [PGA] Tour schedule and reevaluate how next season will finish up into the New Year,” he said.

Still, Spieth came within nine holes of winning his second consecutive green jacket and he will have plenty of starts to change the narrative before the final putt drops.

Olympics (C). Vijay Singh seemed to open the door last week when he withdrew his name from the Olympic field, although given the Fijian’s history with the Tour (the two sides are currently locked in an extended legal battle) it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Even this week’s news that Adam Scott would not make the trip to Rio was not a shocking revelation considering the Australian’s unwavering insistence that the Olympics has never been a top priority for him.

News on Thursday, however, that Louis Oosthuizen has also removed his name from Olympic consideration qualified as a genuine concern.

Like Singh and Scott, Oosthuizen cited scheduling issues for skipping the Games and the crowded late-season line up always promised to be a challenge (the last 12 weeks of the season include seven must-play events for top players).

“The IGF understands the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer and it is regrettable to see a few leading players withdraw,” International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson said in a statement. “Real history will be made at this year's Olympic competitions and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”

Eventually the competition will decide the relative success of golf’s return to the Olympics and there’s no reason to doubt the event will be compelling, but more withdrawals could certainly become a distraction.

Tim Finchem (B). The commissioner’s current contract was schedule to expire this June and there has been a succession plan in place – deputy commissioner Jay Monahan is reportedly running the day-to-day operations of the circuit – for months, but late last month the Tour announced Finchem is going to hang around a bit longer.

Finchem has regularly referenced a few projects he wants to complete before stepping down, which likely include the next round of television contracts.

Opinions vary on Finchem, but it’s tough to look at his record and not acknowledge he’s made the Tour better and bigger; but it’s also tough to ignore the need to embrace change.

“In the years to come, you will see the Tour doing things that maybe right now you would be surprised that we would think in that context,” Finchem said earlier this year at Doral.

Finchem’s legacy has already been written, but on this front progress is paved down a different path.

Jason Day (A). Because you can’t dole out an “A+” without a major, but the Australian has otherwise been a model of production this season.

Highlighted by back-to-back victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Match Play, Day overtook Spieth atop the World Golf Ranking last month and doesn’t appear interested in giving it up any time soon.

Day’s play, and his story, is easy to overlook. He enjoys the relative anonymity of not being Spieth or Rory McIlroy and would much rather spend a quiet afternoon at home with his family than entertaining the world via social media.

But his play – in eight starts he has seven top-25 finishes – has lived up to even the most unrealistically lofty standards, which is saying something after the year he had in 2015.

European Ryder Cup team (A). This is not looking good for the U.S. team and captain Davis Love III.

Although anything that happens in April shouldn’t impact the outcome of the matches in October, there’s no denying that the Continent is building plenty of momentum.

While the normal cast of European characters has played solid this season – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson – it’s the newcomers that may be the most concerning for Love.

Following his victory at the Masters, Danny Willett is starting to look like the kind of European that runs the tables on the Americans every two years; and Matthew Fitzpatrick is a name U.S. fans should get used to hearing.

Tiger Woods (Incomplete). It’s become a common assessment for the former world No. 1, but then what grade can you give a player who has made just eight Tour starts in the last year?

News on Friday that Woods may be planning a return to the Tour in two weeks at the Wells Fargo Championship is an encouraging sign from a player who sounded like he had more questions than answers last December.

But the real question is what can one expect from a 40 year old fresh off multiple back procedures?

If Woods follows his normal schedule, he would have around eight events remaining in the 2015-16 season (he’s currently not qualified for the World Golf Championships, FedEx Cup playoffs or Olympics).

That’s not exactly a lot of time to kick off the dust and make a statement.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.