Cut Line: It's about time

By Rex HoggardOctober 27, 2017, 6:55 pm

In this week’s edition, the USGA breaks new ground at an old venue, Tiger Woods enjoy a breakout week and the European Tour introduces a breakthrough concept to speed up play.

Made Cut

Beach bound. It’s no surprise that the USGA announced this week that it will return to Pebble Beach for the 2027 U.S. Open, but it certainly qualified as a pleasant revelation that the association will bring the ’23 Women’s Open to the iconic venue.

While the ’27 U.S. Open will mark the seventh time the seaside layout will host the men’s championship, the ’23 Women’s Open will be the first time that the event is played at Pebble Beach.

“Pebble is just a special place. It’s tough, it’s long, it will be good to be able to be at the same course where the men have played,” said Paula Creamer, the winner of the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. “Now that we have an event there I think the crowd will be huge.”

And now that the USGA has the women’s championship scheduled for Pebble Beach it might be time to expand that thinking and pull some other traditional men’s venues into the women’s mix. Yes, we’re talking to you, Shinnecock Hills.

Hero or bust? On Monday, Tiger Woods continued to entice his fans via social media, this time posting a video of his once-signature “stinger” iron shot with the caption, “Return of the stinger. #StarWars;” and on Tuesday he was spotted playing a round of golf at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.

“His swing was smooth,” Ian Baker-Finch told GolfDigest.com. “He looked normal.”

Woods also attended Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday in Los Angeles and posted on Twitter, “I last went to the #WorldSeries with my Dad in 1988, also game 2. Amazing to be back almost 30 years later. Let’s go Dodgers!”

As to when Woods might return to competition, that remains unknown, but his former swing coach Hank Haney suggested on social media that December’s Hero World Challenge, a limited-field and unofficial event, would be the most likely option.

“Hero World Challenge is where and when; why wouldn’t he play there? Only thing that keeps him from playing there is a set back,” Haney tweeted.

Oh, and on Friday, Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a lesser charge stemming from his Labor Day arrest for DUI, and entered a diversion program. So, all things considered, a good week.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Grass ceilings. Emily Nash did everything that was asked of her. She played from the correct set of tees. She carried her own bag. She shot a 3-over 75 to lap the field by four strokes.

But most importantly, she played by the rules. All of the rules, no matter how antiquated and absurd they may seem.

Nash, a junior at Lunenburg High School, won the Central Massachusetts Division 3 boys’ golf tournament, but according to state rules she wasn’t awarded the trophy or invited to next week’s state tournament as an individual. Her score only counted toward the team total.

Event director Kevin Riordan said he was simply enforcing the rules and that he planned to buy Nash a winner’s trophy; while the player who finished runner-up, and was declared the winner, offered to give the actual trophy to Nash, who politely declined the offer.

The rule is ridiculous and should be changed for a litany of reasons, but the incident should also be celebrated. From Nash’s respect for the rules to the reactions from players and officials, the moment was a real-world demonstration of everything that makes golf different.

On the clock. The European Tour has always been the pointy end of the spear when it comes to golf’s ongoing struggles with slow play, and news this week that the Continent is poised to take the fight to the next level should come as no surprise.

The tour announced that the former Austrian Open will be renamed the Shot Clock Masters and will feature, yep, you guessed it, a shot clock for every player on every shot.

The circuit tinkered with the shot clock idea this year at the GolfSixes event, but for next June’s tournament each player in the 120-man field will be timed and violators will be issued one-shot penalties.

The first player to play in each group will have 50 seconds and the other players will have 40 seconds to hit. Fans shouldn’t expect to see a similar event on the PGA Tour anytime soon, but it certainly has plenty of support on this side of the transatlantic divide.

“I think it would be very interesting,” world No. 1 Dustin Johnson said this week when asked about a “shot clock” event in the United States. “You'd see a lot of guys getting penalties on our Tour. Yeah, that would be quite fun, actually. I'd have plenty of time but there's a lot of guys that wouldn't. They would be getting a penalty on every hole.” 


Missed Cut

Tweet of the week: Speaking of the European Tour’s advantage over the U.S. circuit, the Continent’s social media platforms have set a new standard in the game for the last few years, but they curiously missed the mark with an item this week featuring the caption “Welcome to Day 1 . . . #HSBCChampions.” Missing from the short clip was Russell Knox, who won the event two years ago.

“Any reason why you missed the 2015 winner?” asked Knox in a separate post. The Scot was not qualified for this year’s event, but he’s still a former champion. Brendan Steele added via Twitter, “That’s bad.”

Well, it’s certainly not good.

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.