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.

Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

The awards and winners:

William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”

Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.