Cut Line: Justice for DJ; more Olympic dropouts

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2016, 5:42 pm

In this week’s edition, the post-Oakmont nitpicking continues, with players and the press dissecting the penalty that cost Dustin Johnson a stroke but not a major title; while potential Olympians continue to wrestle with a difficult choice.

Made Cut

Grand Open-ing. Last week at the U.S. Open, Spain’s Jon Rahm wore blue pants and a white shirt to honor Seve Ballesteros on his way to low-amateur honors at Oakmont.

On Thursday at the Quicken Loans National he began his professional career with a 7-under 64 to take the lead and firmly establish himself as a star-in-waiting.

It’s the kind of start that would have impressed Ballesteros, a short-game magician who never hid his emotions.

It’s an even more impressive start for Rahm considering this year’s crowded field of freshly minted professionals that some consider one of the deepest in recent memory.

Rahm said he wore his tribute to the Spanish legend last week so he could ask himself, “What would Seve do?” in difficult moments. Considering the ease Rahm has shown through his early transition to the play-for-pay ranks, Seve’s response would likely be a wide smile accompanied by a spirited fist pump.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger sighting. The world’s 582nd-ranked player took to the microphone this week at the Quicken Loans National and – as has been the case since he underwent multiple back procedures late last year – there was no real update.

“Still progressing. Excited about what has transpired so far. Lost some of the body fat, but kept the weight up and gotten stronger,” Tiger Woods said on Wednesday. “I need to get in more golf shape. Still working on it. Just wish I could be here playing.”

Although he declined to give any timeline for his return to competition, he also didn’t rule out a return this season, allowing that he’s playing 18 holes a day and would like to come back “sooner rather than later.”

The two most likely starts for Woods would be next month’s Open Championship and PGA Championship, which wouldn’t exactly be ideal rehab assignments considering he hasn’t hit a shot that mattered since last August.

Still, the guy who spoke on Wednesday sounded optimistic he was getting closer to a comeback, which at this stage can only be considered progress.


Missed Cut

Brazil or bust. On Wednesday, world No. 4 Rory McIlroy announced he was withdrawing his name from consideration for this year’s Olympics.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realize that my health and my family's health comes before anything else,” McIlroy said in a statement.

A day later Graeme McDowell announced he would not replace McIlroy on the Irish Olympic team, citing concerns over the Zika virus and his wife’s pregnancy; and world No. 1 Jason Day said McIlroy’s decision was “understandable” and that he hasn’t decided whether he will play for Australia in Rio. Fellow countrymen Adam Scott and Marc Leishman have already declined.

Branden Grace also announced Friday he will not be playing for South Africa, joining Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen on the sidelines.

For potential Olympic athletes there are no wrong choices considering the impact contracting Zika could have on one’s professional and personal life.

Conversely, officials with the International Golf Federation said this week that the number of Zika diagnoses in Rio have dropped about 90 percent since the height of the mosquito season in February and that August is one of the coolest months of the year in Brazil.

Players will make their own choices and the Games will be played regardless, but right now golf needs clarity. There needs to be a single announcement outlining who is playing and who is not, otherwise it’s going to be a death by a thousand cuts that will only undermine the competition.

Justice for Johnson. Whether Dustin Johnson caused his golf ball to move on the fifth green on Sunday at the U.S. Open really doesn’t matter at this point.

The USGA said he did and he was assessed a one-stroke penalty that, thankfully, didn’t impact the outcome of his multistroke victory. Johnson contends he did nothing wrong. At this point it’s best to let history and the micro-pixels of the video replay decide.

What everyone can agree on, however, is the incident was poorly handled by officials who informed Johnson on the 12th tee that there might be a problem and he may or may not have to add one.

Play on.

It’s utter nonsense that a championship was decided with such an air of uncertainty hanging low over Oakmont.

“When you look back at the whole issue, you can break it down into two parts. It's a Rules of Golf issue, of trying to make sure that you apply the rules correctly the way they're written.

And we do believe we did that,” Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, told Golf Channel.

“But there's another part of it in terms of the conduct of the championship itself, and that's where we'd really like a mulligan because clearly we made a big bogey.”

The 2016 U.S. Open will be defined by those surreal final moments, which is unfortunate for Johnson after waiting so long for his major breakthrough, but at least the episode should serve as an example going forward that a decision, be it correct or otherwise, must be made in these crucial moments.

Tweet of the week:

On this you could really pick your poison, with social media reaction to Johnson’s penalty swift and nearly unanimous; but Spieth’s take cut to the central theme of so many concerns that regardless of the outcome the game deserves better.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.