Cut Line: Keeping it Rio

By Rex HoggardMay 6, 2016, 10:02 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In this week’s edition of Cut Line, Jordan Spieth has fully recovered from his Masters meltdown, Tiger Woods is still in recovery mode and Zac Blair recovers nicely after head butting his putter on Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Made Cut

View from 45. At 45 years old Phil Mickelson’s priorities are vastly different than those of his PGA Tour frat brothers.

The focus now is on majors, specifically that missing piece of his Grand Slam puzzle, the U.S. Open, and cementing his legacy as one of the game’s most accomplished players.

Consider his take on this year’s exceedingly busy schedule for many of the game’s top players with the addition of the Olympics. Lefty is currently not qualified for Rio, although he made it clear he’d like to change that, and sees the potential traffic jam of tournaments as an opportunity.

“The way I see it is that around the Olympics, if I can play well in the next two months and somehow get on the team, what a great opportunity to compete in the Olympics,” said Mickelson, who is back in the hunt at the Wells Fargo Championship just three shots off the lead. “And if I don't, I've never had a three-week stretch of a break over the summer. So we'll end up going on a family vacation so it's a win-win the way I see it.”

Have to appreciate half-full Phil keeping things in perspective.

Moving on. It’s good theater to think Jordan Spieth has spent the weeks since rinsing his title chances into Rae’s Creek quietly tucked away in a dark room with just his thoughts, lamenting his missed Masters moment.

The reality is Spieth spent a week in the Bahamas on a buddys trip and even a few days this week getting to know Oakmont, site of this year’s U.S. Open.

“I’ve got ladies at the grocery stores putting their hand on me and going, ‘Really praying for you. How are you doing?’” Spieth said Tuesday. “I’m like, ‘My dog didn’t die. I’ll be OK. I’ll survive. It happens.’”

Now, the fact Spieth already has a green jacket in his closet certainly helps dull the sting of his Masters loss and that stunning quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 12th hole on Sunday.

But even if Spieth didn’t have his two-pack of major titles to ease his pain, chances are the game’s most level-headed 22-year-old would still be just fine.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Deep end of the pool. Like it or not, drug testing – real drug testing, not the light version used by the PGA Tour since it began its program in 2008 – is a part of sports today.

With millions of dollars at stake each week the temptation to bend the rules is too great as we’ve seen in nearly every other sport, and the only way to combat that threat, be it real or perceived by the public, is a comprehensive, completely transparent anti-doping program.

That program arrived on Friday for players potentially bound for the Olympics later this year.

One hundred and twenty players (60 men, 60 women) were placed into the Olympic testing pool that includes blood testing (the Tour’s policy does not have blood testing), out-of-competition testing (the Tour’s policy allows for this but it doesn’t seem to be used much, if at all) and a whereabouts requirement.

Most involved in golf have held that the game, unlike other sports, is above doping, which may be true, but for the first time there is a program in place to prove it.

Will he, won’t he? Another deadline passed and Tiger Woods remained on the sidelines, this time passing on next week’s Players Championship. Woods hasn't made a start since last year’s Wyndham Championship.

Speculation has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks as Woods appears to inch closer to his comeback following multiple back procedures last year, fueled by reports of the former world No. 1 booking accommodations for the Memorial and registering for the U.S. Open.

Davis Love III, arguably Woods’ biggest advocate for a comeback considering his position as this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain, brought some sanity to the conversation earlier this week when he was asked about Tiger’s chances as a potential pick

“He needs to play,” Love said. “Hopefully, Tiger gets back and starts playing. He has to play enough to, one, to get going, and two, to impress everybody. It's not just me.”

Eventually there will be an announcement that Woods is returning to the PGA Tour but that won’t be the end of his comeback, it will be the beginning.

Tweet of the week: @z_blair (Zac Blair) “For the record my putter is very very slightly bent... Not broken. And I'm gonna drop some blowsnakes next week with it!”

Blair was disqualified from the Wells Fargo Championship after he missed a birdie putt on the fifth hole, hit himself in the head with the offending implement and then putted out for par with the club.

Blair sent out an impressive mea culpa on Twitter: “Going forward I’m going to do my best to not let my emotions get in the way out on the golf course.”

Nobody wants that kind of outburst on the course, but give Blair credit for handling the situation with class and humility.

Missed Cut

Pro-am party. During Tuesday’s mandatory players meeting at the Wells Fargo Championship the agenda, as it often does, turned to weekly pro-am days and how to improve them.

The idea has been floated to have two professionals per group, one playing the front nine and the other finishing the round with the amateur partners.

“It would give the amateurs a chance to get to know more players and the players could use the extra time to get ready for the tournament,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

But the idea doesn’t seem to have much traction among players on the policy board and player advisory council despite a general consensus that pro-am days are too long.

Pro-am days are an important part of any tournament’s business and give the Tour access to countless corporate decision makers, but if there are ways to improve the product for both the players and the amateurs, that should be a top priority.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.