Cut Line: The King still draws a crowd

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2015, 8:47 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – The call of The King draws the game’s top names to Bay Hill, while madness seems to have gripped golf’s version of the big tournament, but not necessarily for all of the right reasons.

Made Cut

The King calls. At 85 years young Arnold Palmer can still command a room, as evidenced by this week’s gathering at Bay Hill.

Despite a less-than-perfect date on the PGA Tour calendar, Bay Hill consistently draws one of the year’s best fields – this year’s event featured all of the top 5 in the World Golf Ranking (Bubba Watson withdrew) – and the circuit kicked in the additional bonus of a three-year exemption for the API champion starting this season.

It’s a solid sign for an event that links to the game’s past so clearly, and a nod to Palmer’s continued influence.

“The young kids don’t know who or what Arnold was, but I was lucky enough to play with him in a major once and see what he meant to the game,” Ernie Els said on Friday.

Strength in numbers. However the class-action lawsuit between the Tour and an expanding group of caddies plays out it has created an impressive amount of unity for a group that doesn’t always appear to be reading from the same script.

On Monday lawyers for the caddies, who claim the Tour has engaged in restraint of trade and anticompetitive conduct involving caddie bibs, amended the lawsuit to include 167 caddies, more than double the original number involved in the case.

Among the additional plaintiffs was Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ former caddie who told Cut Line, “They [the Tour] treat the caddies like second-class citizens.”

Some may not like the concept, but a new caddie credo is emerging, “show up, keep up and speak up.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Match making. The root canal continues for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, which abandoned the West Coast swing and created a new format this season.

The Tour unveiled a new drawing process this week for the event, which has gone to three days of round-robin group play followed by the Round of 16 starting on Saturday.

The top 16 players in the World Golf Ranking on April 27 will be seeded into the 16 groups followed by a “blind draw” from three pools to determine the remaining three players for each group.

“A number of [media] have been writing for a long time that Wednesday of the Match Play is maybe one of the best days of the year in golf,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said two weeks ago at Doral. “You follow that line of thought to what we are going to have in this format, I think it could be really, really good.”

Lost in that concept, however, is the one-and-done element that made Match Play Wednesday so dramatic (see Georgia State’s victory over Baylor in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday).

Tweet of the Week:


Young Jordan was referring to Thursday’s slate of one-point games in Round 1 at the NCAA Tournament and not the new WGC-Match Play format. Let’s hope the Tour’s tinkering didn’t dull golf’s version of the #Madness.

Augusta National or bust. On the first day of spring it’s only fitting to check on Charles Howell III and his annual rite of spring.

Howell grew up a 9-iron from Augusta National and counts the year’s first major as something more than just another stop on the schedule. Despite that affinity, and 16 consecutive years of Tour status, he’s played the Masters just once since 2009.

On cue, Howell began his push to Augusta National recently, tying for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open and 10th last week at the Valspar Championship.

“The Masters is a funny one because so many years I put myself in a position of trying to qualify for it, but now I’m just trying to play golf and let whatever happens happen,” Howell said. “I know that’s easy to say. I’ve found a way to miss it by the smallest margins every year. Just playing in that event is important to me, playing well would be a bonus.”

Howell shot a 68 on Friday at Bay Hill, but he’ll need to do better than that if he’s going to qualify for the Masters. A victory at Bay Hill or next week in San Antonio would earn him a trip down Magnolia Lane, otherwise he’ll need to crack the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking by March 30.

For Howell, consider it a tradition unlike any other.

Missed Cut

Speed dating. In the crowded landscape of the PGA Tour some dates on the schedule are better than others.

This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, for example, has created a home as the anchor event of the Florida swing, but according to various sources officials at Bay Hill wanted to be shifted to two weeks before the Masters.

That slot, however, went to the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, which will be played in Austin, Texas, next year, leaving The King’s tournament to forge its way between two World Golf Championships events.

The World Golf Championships have become a part of the Tour fabric, but would it be asking too much to space them out a little bit more? We hear Southern California in June is sublime.

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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.