Cut Line Kings Captains and Little Guys
Arnold Palmer. Because he made charisma cool. Because he has a drink named after him. Because he can hang with presidents as easily as he can kibitz with the rank-and-file.
Because you still get chills watching those old black-and-whites from the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. Because you still show up at the first tee at Bay Hill each week looking to take someone’s money. Because once a year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational you light up the press room with your wit and your wisdom.
But mostly because golf as we know it wouldn’t exist without you.
For all that, we fudge the record books and give The King one last weekend between the ropes for a cool 575 made cuts.
The little guy. Mark Wilson roared out of the gates on familiar turf on Friday and finds himself tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship. We liked this story the first time we saw it, when the lead role was played by Heath Slocum and the back drop was Lower Manhattan.
Say what you will about the playoffs, but on consecutive weeks we’ve had Woods, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker rubbing elbows with the Wilsons and Slocums of the world. It may not be the “Duel in the Sun,” but it’s pretty good.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament has Gonzaga, Major League Baseball has the Tampa Bay Rays and golf has a group of unassuming plodders to keep things honest, and interesting.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Cog Hill. Tour golf fits the Southside fixture like baseball at Wrigley Field, and Rees Jones’ tinkering seems to be to most players’ liking. A single-minded focus to move on to something bigger and better, however, makes one wonder.
Cog Hill officials moved heaven and tons of earth in an attempt to woo a U.S. Open to the public facility and there have been rumblings that the club would push hard to host the 2016 Olympic Games if golf and Chicago get the IOC nod next month. Not so fast.
There’s nothing wrong with Cog Hill’s Dubsdread layout that some well-handled chainsaws can’t fix and before we move on to the Olympics or U.S. Open, the traffic problems on South Archer Avenue must be fixed.
Asked if Cog Hill should host a U.S. Open Zach Johnson paused for a long moment, “I’m not sure.” It wasn’t a slight against the club or course, just a sign they might be moving too fast.
Vijay Singh/Camilo Villegas/Sergio Garcia. The three-ball that ruled last year’s FedEx Cup playoffs are headed for, or are already enjoying, an early offseason.
Singh, who coasted to the Cup title last year, didn’t make it to Chicago for Round 3; Villegas, who gave the Fijian a run with victories in the last two playoff events in 2008, is 22 spots on the wrong side of East Lake and tied for 30th at Cog Hill; and Garcia, whose duel with Singh at The Barclays last year was the highlight of the postseason, is two rounds away from the sidelines.
To be fair, Singh has been hurt this year, Garcia is hurting emotionally after a high-profile split with his girlfriend and Villegas has simply been hard on the eyes. Not even the Yankees make it to the World Series every year.
Greg Norman.The Australian blamed his ex-wife for not winning more major championships. Are we to understand that current wife Chris Everet plucked Adam Scott from the depths of a lost year? Doubtful.
Maybe Norman was being loyal to a friend or is hoping the heat of the Presidents Cup will give Scott the spark he’s been missing. If so, both are misguided, albeit plausible, ideas.
What flummoxed “Cut Line” is Norman’s disregard for Rory Sabbatini and the long-held tradition of calling a player that is being passed over to help soften the blow. U.S. captain Fred Couples made an emotional call to Brian Gay on Tuesday and sent Dustin Johnson a three-part text message on Monday explaining his picks and assuring the hard-hitting two-time Tour winner that he will be on a team soon enough.
Nearly a month before the matches Norman’s already under fire. He should ask Nick Faldo how clumsy captaincies go.
American LPGA players. This may sound jingoistic, but we glanced at the leaderboard today and wondered why the Pan-Asian Open is being played in Arkansas?
Some have tried to make this a tour problem, while others want to pin the blame on the Asian players. Both miss the mark. Despite the success of the U.S. Solheim Cup team last month, the home team has been something of a red, white and bust in individual events.
At one point on Friday, the leaderboard at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship featured just a single American in the top 15. It was easy for players to pin all of the tour’s woes on Carolyn Bivens, but players on the PGA Tour would likely have a different take on things – play better.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.