Cut Line: Just do it?

By Rex HoggardOctober 26, 2012, 3:24 pm

There’s no official event this week on the PGA Tour – no cut, no problem. The beat continues thanks to Rory McIlroy, who made news with clubs that he may or may not be playing next year, and John Daly, who plans to take his talents across the pond in 2013, but not to Q-School.


Made Cut

End of an era. By definition change is not toxic, it’s the ambiguity of the unknown that leads to bouts of nostalgia and trepidation.

Perhaps the PGA Tour’s new qualifying system that begins next year will be an improvement over the current model, but as the circuit inches toward a new era it’s hard not to wonder what was wrong with the old system.

The week’s Web.com Tour Championship, combined with the final stage of Q-School, has always been one of the most compelling tournaments in golf – reality TV without a script.

Consider the leaderboard at this week’s finale in McKinney, Texas, features Tag Ridings, No. 51 on the money list, No. 44 Justin Bolli, No.38 Cliff Kresge, No. 30 Michael Putnam, No. 21 Brad Fritsch and No. 11 Justin Hicks.

You may not know the names but you are keenly aware that all of them are playing for their jobs next year. The new system may be a better way to dole out Tour cards, but it’s hard to imagine how it’s more entertaining.

Tweet of the week: @VijaySinghGolf “Been home for two days now, it feels good to not have to leave again for a while #relaxsingh”

Count that as a hash tag Cut Line never thought he’d see.

Warning signs. As a general rule, our sports heroes disappoint.

It’s become the status quo in recent years that if an athletic accomplishment seemed too good to be true, it normally was. From Alex Rodriguez to Barry Bonds and now Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles this week following the release of an exhaustive report detailing an amazingly sophisticated doping program.

But for Cut Line that cynical catch-all almost always leads back to Tiger Woods, who likely pushed the Tour to begin testing for performance-enhancing drugs in 2008 and was asked about Armstrong this week in Asia.

“I know we don't do any blood work like some of the other sports do. Right now it's just urine samples, but that's certainly a positive step in the right direction to try and validate our sport,” he said. “This is a sport where we turn ourselves in on mistakes . . . that's one of the neat things about our great game, and I think with the testing, it's only enhanced that respectability throughout all of sport.”

No, Woods is not perfect, but on this he seems to be the moral exception to the deeply disturbing rule.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Follow the money? Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III doesn’t sidestep trouble this deftly, but then Rory McIlroy is becoming adept at avoiding landmines.

Last week in Asia it wasn’t the continued drama over who he will play for at the 2016 Olympic Games. Instead, the issue du jour for the Ulsterman is whether he plans to bolt Titleist for Nike Golf.

Numerous reports suggest the two-time major champion is poised to sign a 10-year deal with the swoosh worth $250 million at the end of the year, and by the looks of the endorsement landscape it appears Nike Golf is clearing “salary cap” space for such a deal. Although it’s worth noting that sources familiar with McIlroy’s contract with Titleist tell Cut Line he still has multiple years remaining on his current equipment deal.

Market value being the ultimate arbiter, McIlroy deserves whatever mega-deal his management team can conjure up. But this is delicate ground. The game’s historical footnotes are filled with players who made ultimately harmful equipment decisions based on money and not competitive necessity.

As one Tour type told Cut Line, “He needs to ask himself if this is best for his game? Maybe it is, but that has to be the ultimate reason, not the money.”


Missed Cut

Daly edition. Maybe it’s time to place a moratorium on John Daly items and simply accept the fact that he is the embodiment of the self-entitled athlete, but the big man makes it too easy sometimes.

Daly told The Associated Press last week that he plans to focus on the European Tour in 2013, “I have no goals (on the PGA Tour) because I don't get in anything. Everyone turned me down on the West Coast.”

That’s right, Daly plans to play the European Tour because tournament directors on the West Coast didn’t give him sponsor exemptions. Never mind that he hasn’t finished inside the top 125 in earnings since 2005 and yet has refused to play Q-School and try to earn his card the old fashion way.

Of course he did say he would play next year’s finals series, a four-event playoff-like format that will combine the top players from the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126 to 200 in PGA Tour earnings, “If I was exempt.”

The only way for Daly to be exempt into the finals series, however, is via sponsor exemptions, which he doesn’t seem to be getting enough of, or playing this year’s Q-School, which he’s not doing.

Mark this as reason No. 346 why Cut Line already misses the old Q-School.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.