Cut Line Hope weather warnings

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2010, 7:45 pm
Two words that may have never been uttered at the Bob Hope Classic: Monday finish. But then the phrase “lift, clean and place” doesn’t seem apropos either when you’re playing golf in the Coachella Valley. “Hope Weather,” however, has forced tournament officials to expand their vocabularies this week.

“Cut Line” will shoulder on though because, as everyone knows, everything breaks toward Indio and cuts are made to be missed.

Made Cut

Player ownership. As a rule, input flows in one direction when it comes to PGA Tour players. From more playing opportunities to bigger shrimp at the buffet, the circuit’s suggestion boxes are filled with ways to make Tour-dom better, but rarely do these suggestions come with individual action items.

It’s a reality that makes this week’s news of a new Fall Series event an encouraging diversion from the norm because it seems it was players, not Tour types, who got dirty to close this deal.

The McGladrey Classic, which will be played at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort this October, is more than a post-Tour Championship diversion thanks in large part to the efforts of Zach Johnson and Davis Love III, both of whom are on the Tour’s Policy Board and Sea Island residents.

“We can make it a model for guys to see how to get involved with a tournament,” said Mark Love, Davis’ brother and the new event’s executive director. “This is a chance for (other players) to see the importance of becoming more active in the sponsorship area.”

The opportunities are endless. May we suggest the Cheesehead Classic presented by Wisconsin’s own Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly with all proceeds to benefit the Brett Favre Withdrawal Fund.

Jack Nicklaus. Old golf scribes will tell you the Golden Bear invented the “scrum,” the informal give and take between legend and media that makes the modern press conference seem like a physics lecture. Whether Nicklaus was the pioneer doesn’t seem to matter when you’re talking with him because it’s clear he’s perfected the art.

On Thursday Nicklaus turned 70 and the thought occurs that Tiger Woods will probably overtake the Golden Bear in the Grand Slam race, but he will likely never live up to Nicklaus’ ability to connect with the press or the people.

Among the highlights of this sporting life, we’ve watched Michael Jordan dunk a basketball, Woods rifle a 3-iron and Nicklaus explain things as only an 18-time major champion can.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish

eGolf Professional Tour. Let’s be clear, Doug Barron and common sense have the look of victims if you consider the Tour has granted other players exemptions to use some of the same drugs that the journeyman tested positive for last year and Barron’s decision to continue his legal challenge of his one-year suspension promises to shed light on what has been a murky process.

News last week, however, that Barron will continue to ply his trade this year on the North Carolina mini-tour smacks of economic expediency. For a $2,250 membership fee competitive integrity has been put on hold.

It’s hard to believe Barron is guilty of anything more than legal naiveté, but that’s for the courts to decide not a mini-tour in need of members.

Democracy. Asked earlier this week if the PGA Tour is rethinking its policy of granting members conflicting event releases commissioner Tim Finchem quickly dismissed the notion.

Although the timing is not ideal with a handful of top Tour members chasing appearance fees across the globe at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship while Bob Hope Classic officials glad-hand potential sponsors like a Massachusetts Democrat, professional golf is a collection of independent contractors and you don’t torch the Bill of Rights just because the freedom of speech clause is inconvenient.

The old Tour axiom is that every player is a Republican until they miss a cut, then they are Democrats. Add a rough economic environment and some struggling events to the mix and it seems we’ve also got a few socialist sprinkled in there as well.

Missed Cut

Hope-less. No sponsor, no top 20 players in the world and now there appears to be a hole in the dome that once protected Bob Hope’s annual soiree from the elements and second guessing.

Truth is, the Hope has been on varying stages of outpatient care ever since the host with the most stopped wheeling around the Coachella Valley in that tricked up E-Z-Go, and it’s tough to blame the demise of Detroit on tournament director Michael Milthorpe.

Some of what ails the Hope, however, was self-inflicted. The move to oust George Lopez as host, the wind-blown experiment at the Classic Club and a dogmatic affinity to an unpopular five-round format have not helped the tournament.

Or, as Hope once deadpanned, “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.”

Reality. As we approach the two-month anniversary of “Black Friday” it seems surreal has become the standard when it comes to Woods.

If Woods is in a Mississippi sex rehab clinic (nine words we never thought we’d pen) as last week’s grainy photos suggest – although the Zapruder film seems more conclusive by comparison – then fans of the player, if not the man, should be encouraged by his attempt to battle his demons.

As for fans of the golfer, Woods seems focused on a much more important match right now. One that’s not going to be influenced by the major championship schedule or the call of Augusta.
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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”