Cut Line: Honoring Arnie, Se Ri; awaiting Tiger

By Rex HoggardOctober 14, 2016, 11:01 pm

NAPA, Calif. – In an opening-day edition, Cut Line showcases the end of an era in South Korea, the beginning of more speculation regarding Tiger Woods and the monotony of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule.

Made Cut

A class above. On Wednesday, Emiliano Grillo was named the 2015-16 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, becoming the third player from the high school class of 2011 to claim the honor in the last four years.

Grillo staked his claim to the award with his victory at last year’s Safeway Open, and the race heated up even more when Smylie Kaufman won the next week in Las Vegas.

But what turned into one of the tightest races in recent memory for the rookie award may be a precursor to this year’s class, which includes a host of blue-chip prospects including Ollie Schniederjans, Trey Mullinax, Bobby Wyatt and Wesley Bryan, a three-time winner on the Tour last season.

Because of small print in the Tour’s regulations, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, who is in the hunt this week in Napa, don’t qualify as rookies but certainly add to the notion that a new wave of young talent is poised to make its mark.

Fit for a King. Officials with the Central Florida Expressway board announced a plan this week to rename a portion of State Road 408 after Arnold Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at age 87.

Considering everything the King meant to central Florida, the Arnold Palmer Expressway, which still must be approved by Florida legislators, seems like the least officials could do to honor him, but for your scribe this is personal.

When Cut Line isn’t following the traveling Tour circus, we always try to park as close as possible to Palmer’s personalized space at Golf Channel HQ, eat in Arnie’s Café, and now will commute to work on a road named in his honor.

Battling traffic and paying tolls suddenly seems much less concerning.

Pak’s place. Se Ri Pak played her last competitive round Thursday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea, a planned farewell to one of the game’s most inspiring players.

It was a testament to her reach that a host of players, both Korean and American, were waiting for her as she finished her emotional final turn, including Inbee Park, who wasn’t even participating in the event.

Pak’s impact on the growth of golf in Korea can’t be truly measured, but as a sign of her reach consider that in 1998 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open she was the only South Korean playing on the LPGA tour. Today that number has grown to 34.

In August at the Olympics, Pak talked of Park’s gold-medal winning performance, telling reporters the victory in Rio would create a legacy for other South Koreans to follow. After a life of leadership, she would know.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tough choices. Nothing brings out armchair analysts like Tiger Woods; the second-guessing reached a frenzied level on Monday when he announced he would not be playing this week’s Safeway Open.

Speculation raged from those who now believe the former world No. 1 will never play another PGA Tour event, to conspiracy theories that he withdrew because officials were going to pair him with Phil Mickelson for Rounds 1 and 2 in Napa.

Both assumptions seem wildly off base. Various sources this week confirmed to Cut Line that both Woods and Mickelson, who shared leadership duties two weeks ago at the Ryder Cup, embraced this week’s potential pairing; and despite the withdrawal from Napa, Tiger remained committed to playing his own Hero World Challenge in December.

Although it’s not an official event, a start later this year in the Bahamas would qualify as a step in the right direction.

Only Woods knows his body and his game, and no athlete should be criticized for taking the long road back from injury, particularly if that athlete is Tiger.

Tweet of the week: @Bowdo83 (Steven Bowditch) “Don’t WD Tiger! Come play a couple of practice rounds with me. Your confidence will go through the roof!”

You have to give the Australian the award for most deprecating after all he endured last season. Twelve of Bowditch’s 71 rounds last season were in the 80s and he missed his last five cuts.

It turns out Woods did miss a show. On Tuesday, Bowditch made a hole-in-one during a practice round and tweeted: “One thing worse than having a hole in one on Tuesday, making it against (Boo Weekley). #Natylite #unluckytiger”

Missed Cut

Off and running. The long wait ended this week as the 2016-17 Tour season got underway at Silverado Resort & Spa (insert eye roll).

“After five solid days off, it's exciting to start the year,” smiled Mickelson in a not-so-subtle shot at the Tour’s non-existent offseason.

It’s been exactly 17 days since the final putt of the 2015-16 season dropped at East Lake, which makes it hard to embrace this week’s event with anything even close to opening-day excitement.

Tour types will compete in the fall because they largely have to or risk falling behind in the season-long points race, but that doesn’t mean the quick turnaround is good for the players or the fans.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.