Cut Line: Honda healthy, but not McIlroy

By Rex HoggardMarch 1, 2013, 6:28 pm

It’s Friday and players at this week’s PGA Tour stop haven’t been snowed on, which means we must have started the Florida swing. In honor of the circuit’s shift to the Sunshine State we shed some light on anchoring, an extreme makeover at the Honda Classic and Rory McIlroy’s missing “A” game.

Made Cut

Most improved. Judging PGA Tour events is always an inexact science. Some tournaments consider longevity the sign of success, while others use charitable contributions as the ultimate litmus test.

Depth of field, however, is the most realistic benchmark, which makes this week’s Honda Classic the Tour’s leading candidate for most-improved stop over the last decade.

Consider that before the event moved to PGA National and became associated with Jack Nicklaus and his South Florida charities, the 2006 and ’05 winners received 22 and 25 world ranking points, respectively. Since then the winners have averaged 49.6 points.

The world ranking math may not be perfect, but when it comes to the perfect storm in South Florida they seem to have it right.

Charles is in charge. Well, sort of.

Charles Howell III’s quest to play The Masters, a hometown event for the Augusta, Ga., native, has been gaining momentum since he began the season with three consecutive top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss at the Humana Challenge and a first-round victory over Tiger Woods at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

His steady climb has moved him from 119th to start the season to 64th in the world golf ranking. The top 50 in the world through the Shell Houston Open on March 31 earn invitations to the Masters and Howell could help his cause by maintaining his spot on the FedEx Cup points list (he is currently eighth) and earning a spot at next week’s no-cut WGC-Cadillac Championship.

“I know if I want to play in the Masters, I've got to play really good golf coming ahead,” Howell said. “Getting in next week would be a nice step to that, but it will still take a lot of good golf.”

Some rides down Magnolia Lane are tougher than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A time to talk. Maybe you didn’t like the message, and the timing was certainly suspect, but Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s very public push back on Sunday toward the proposed ban on anchoring was very much pardonable politics.

If a press conference halfway through the championship match at one of the Tour’s marquee events doesn’t exactly qualify as “good timing,” consider the commish’s quandary.

If the player advisory council’s vote last week was any indication, the vast majority of Tour types oppose the ban. Whatever the majority’s motivation – self-preservation, growth of the game concerns, territorial gamesmanship with the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club – it is Finchem’s job to be the voice of the Tour on this issue, which reached the end of its 90-day comment period on Thursday.

The USGA and R&A asked for comments and probably got more than they bargained for, but that’s neither Finchem nor the Tour’s fault.

Tweet of the week: @BubbaWatson “I am with @USGA. Anchoring loses essence of a golf swing. #MaybeIShouldTryAnchoringCauseICan’tPutt


Missed Cut

Imperfect Poults. OK, second sucks – and third. We get it, but Ian Poulter seemed to press the wrong buttons last week on Twitter following his loss to Jason Day in Sunday’s consolation match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

“I would love to have won this afternoon but (third or fourth place) just isn’t the same as playing for a title. When you’re playing over 100 holes in five days,” Poulter tweeted followed by another missive, “I will be honest that 3-4 place match is the least interesting match of the week. No need to play it. Players should be tied for third.”

For the record, there are $115,000 (the prize money) and 60 (FedEx Cup points) differences between third and fourth place at the WGC. It should also be noted that Day didn’t seem to have a problem with Sunday’s undercard.

The WGC’s consolation match certainly lacks the punch found in the finals, but isn’t there something to be said for competitive integrity? Last I checked they still play the NIT.

Missing McIlroy. Four and a half rounds into a season doesn’t exactly feel like the time for in-depth self-examination, yet as world No. 1 Rory McIlroy bolted PGA National on Friday he appeared in search of answers, for his wayward play and battered psyche as well as an aching tooth.

McIlroy told reporters he was “not in a good place mentally” when he walked off the golf course after eight holes at 7 over par for the day. He later released a statement that said he was struggling to concentrate because of a sore wisdom tooth.

However, many longtime observers say McIlroy’s pedestrian play – he now has a missed cut (Abu Dhabi), Day 1 loss (WGC-Match Play) and a withdrawal (Honda Classic) to start 2013 – is the byproduct of his wholesale switch to Nike Golf this offseason.

“Changing balls and clubs at the same time is the death knell. Can’t be done,” said one player manager.

McIlroy has earned the benefit of the doubt. If a good dentist is what the Ulsterman needs to right the ship, let Cut Line make a few recommendations. We’re just not sure the answers he seeks can be found in the dentist’s chair.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.