Cut Line: Jack's role in luring Tiger to Honda

By Rex HoggardMarch 2, 2012, 7:43 pm

Less than two turns into the Florida Swing and the Sunshine State has already delivered one of the year’s strongest fields (Honda Classic), its strangest exchange (between Tiger Woods and Alex Miceli) and its most sentimental frontrunner (Davis Love III).

And they say the Left Coast is unpredictable.

Made Cut

Upgrades. Call it the PGA Tour’s “most improved” or even the circuit’s “best in class,” although the distinction between pro golf’s haves and have-nots doesn’t seem to fit considering this week’s marquee at the Honda Classic. Whatever one calls the south Florida staple know that it is a vast improvement over what previously passed for a Tour stop.

Observers will point to the event’s jump across PGA Boulevard in 2007 to PGA National as the turning point and the math supports that thesis. In 2006, Luke Donald earned 22 World Golf Ranking points for winning the Honda. A year later at PGA National Mark Wilson earned 50 points for his playoff victory.

But that assessment ignores the work that Ken Kennerly, the tournament’s executive director, has done to transform the Honda from a Florida Swing afterthought to an A-list gathering.

Kennerly courted top international players looking for a home away from home between World Golf Championships and made the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation the event’s primary beneficiary, which helped the event land the game’s ultimate top card.

“Tiger said having Jack’s (Nicklaus) charity involved was one of his four points for entering,” Kennerly said of Woods, who is playing the event for the first time as a professional. “It is important to him, having children, and that definitely factored into his decision.”

Filling the void. To pinch a well-used line from colleague John Hawkins, Tiger Woods doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle. Last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, however, suggests that the public is at least starting to notice other needles.

Sunday’s final between eventual champion Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy was the highest-rated non-Woods finale in the tournament’s history. It was a best-case scenario for WGC officials with McIlroy and Lee Westwood dueling in the morning’s semifinal for a chance to play for the world’s No. 1 ranking and Mahan providing the appropriate level of patriotic zeal.

There was a time when there were two kinds of tournaments, Tiger events and non-Tiger stops and that’s not likely to change be some gray area between those extremes.

Tweet of the day: @Chris_Kirk “Tiger factor huge today (at Honda Classic), I pretended everyone came just to watch me.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Something old, something new . . . Pro shops and sporting goods stores are filled with high-handicap players combing through the latest and greatest in equipment advances in search of an answer.

The last two weeks on Tour have proven that play-for-pay types aren’t much different. Early last week Mahan’s alignment was so off with his trusty Ping Anser putter that company equipment representatives persuaded him to try the new mallet-head, face-balanced Nome putter. The result was one of the best putting weeks of his career.

This week in south Florida it was Davis Love III who put a new Scotty Cameron in play on his way to a course record-tying 64 on Thursday and one of his best putting rounds in years.

Something new, however, isn’t always the fix. Earlier this week Woods went back to his old Ping grip on his Nike Method 001 putter. On Day 1 he needed 34 putts and ranked near the bottom of the field.

Olympic effort. That’s what the U.S. Golf Association is hoping to have when the U.S. Open arrives at venerable Olympic Club in June. USGA executive director Mike Davis said the Lake Course will be “extremely stern.” Translation: those accustomed to the softer side of the USGA may be disappointed.

Here are a few numbers for potential Open hopefuls to consider: The opening hole, normally a par 5 for members, will be a 533-yard par 4; while the par-5 16th will play as long as 670 yards, which would make it the longest hole in championship history.

“I am convinced that this will be the hardest start in a U.S. Open,” Davis said. “The first six holes are going to just be brutal. I would contend if you play the first six holes 2 over, I don’t think you’re giving up anything to the field.”

“Cut Line” blames this on Rory McIlroy and his record-setting romp last year at Congressional.

Missed Cut

The advocate. Whether Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun violated Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy or was the victim of spotty workmanship on the part of the sample collector will likely never be known. Yet as it applies to professional golf Braun’s is an inescapable cautionary tale.

Braun’s 50-game suspension was lifted because of an administrative snafu and “Cut Line” couldn’t help but think that had Doug Barron, the only player in Tour history to be suspended for violating the circuit’s PED policy, had similar representation in his corner in 2009 he wouldn’t have lost a year of his career to suspension.

No one wants to use the “U” (union) word in golf, but it is curious that Barron is now legally using many of the same medications that got him banned and he even played last fall’s Q-School. In ’09 Barron trusted the system and became a Trivial Pursuit answer. Watching Braun on television this week, we couldn’t help but wonder if maybe golf’s system is broken.

The Big Mess. Tiger Woods’ chilly exchange with Golf Channel contributor Alex Miceli aside, Wednesday’s toe-to-toe between the two had less to do with divergent personalities than it did simple economics.

Every time Woods is asked about Hank Haney’s impending book “The Big Miss” presales jump exponentially and the one thing Woods has always struggled with is someone making a buck off of his name.

On Wednesday at the Honda Classic Woods was asked seven book-related questions and his answer, more or less, was the same to each, telling one reporter, “I’ve already talked about it.” In fairness, Woods did address the book at his season opener in Abu Dhabi but that will do little to stem the tide of questions in the weeks leading up to the book’s pre-Masters release.

Haney’s publishers want to make money, Woods wants the book to go away. In the interim, golf ends up with the big mess.

Getty Images

The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

A post shared by theCHIVE (@thechive) on

Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

A post shared by Under Armour Golf (@uagolf) on

The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

Getty Images

Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

Getty Images

Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)