Cut Line: Let ams keep their belly putters

By Rex HoggardFebruary 10, 2012, 9:32 pm

No cut this week on the PGA Tour until Saturday, which would seem to coincide with the U.S. Golf Association’s new ruling on anchored putters if recent reports are any indication. But if the belly putter’s demise is on the fast track, there is no end in sight for Fred Couples and what is turning into a game of musical captains’ chairs.

Made Cut

Being short. Full disclosure here, your correspondent is a belly putter user from way back and is more than a little suspicious that the U.S. Golf Association’s sudden interest in longer-than-standard length putters is overly reactionary. Call it the Keegan Bradley accord.

The debate, however, has gained momentum in recent days, particularly with Tiger Woods’ take on long putters and revelations that he has spoken with officials from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews about a possible rules change.

“I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. That's how it should be played. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to that,” said Woods, who has largely avoided speaking out on controversial issues in the past. “My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag.”

That Woods felt comfortable enough taking this issue head on demonstrates how passionate many in the sport are about long putters. But instead of another top-down mandate perhaps the current controversy is an opportunity to finally consider bifurcation of the Rules of Golf.

If the PGA Tour is worried about the evils of the long putter, and the juiced-up golf ball for that matter, then they can, and should, act. But leave the rest of us to break 90 with whatever implements we see fit.

Tseng the queen. Paul Goydos once mused that Tiger Woods was the most underrated player in the game, but as the LPGA Tour begins its season in Australia that crown seems to have been passed to Yani Tseng.

She may have had the most nondescript 12-win, two-major season in the history of golf and, here’s the good part, the 23-year-old began 2012 with designs on improving what she did last season.

“Last year is over,” Tseng said. “This is a new year for me.”

That she could somehow improve on ’11 seems like an afterthought. That it seems unlikely many will notice is just sad.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Oh, captain. Fred Couples offered an interesting glimpse into the complicated inner workings of the process of selecting future Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup captains this week in Dubai, conceding that he would like to have a turn as a Ryder Cup captain.

“Maybe in the next two or four years I'll get a shot at it, but they are going to name another Presidents Cup captain here in another month and I know they're all pushing for me to do it again, so I'm all for that,” Couples said.

The current captain dynamics are complicated. Following the International side’s loss last year at Royal Melbourne there was a groundswell of support from players to give Greg Norman a third term as captain in 2013 at Muirfield Village in Ohio. Conventional wisdom suggests if Norman returns it would make sense to give Couples a third turn.

However, current U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III would like to name Couples one of his assistant captains for this year’s matches but must wait to see if the Tour tabs “Boom Boom” for the Presidents Cup chair in ’13, while the PGA of America wouldn’t give Couples the 2014 Ryder Cup captain’s job if his 2013 dance card is full helping prepare for Muirfield Village.

In short, the Tour and the PGA of America are in a blinking contest and it appears Couples is caught in the middle.

Tweet of the week I: @KyleThompsonPGA “I’ve now had three people tell me congrats on my win last week. Sorry, I’m a different Kyle that plays (Titleist). #noKyleStanley”


Missed Cut

Northern Trust Open. With a monsoon of respect to Billy Hurley, Jordan Spieth and Jason Gore, the decision to not extend Mike Weir a sponsor exemption by officials in Los Angeles is curious at best.

Hurley, Spieth and Gore are certainly deserving of an exemption, but when a two-time champion and former major winner doesn’t rate a pass it may be time to reevaluate the system.

The exemption process has always been a political minefield for tournament directors, with some saying it’s the worst part of their job, yet the little left-hander’s snub would make even Republican strategist Karl Rove cringe.

Tweet of the week II: @Southpaw444 (Steve Flesch) “I don’t care what criteria sponsors ‘claim’ to use to determine who gets exemptions, Mike Weir not getting one into (the Northern Trust Open) is a mockery.”

BMW Championship. That Cog Hill has unofficially been cut out of the BMW rotation for the greener fairways of Conway Farms is sad enough, but the real crime here is that the nation’s second-largest market is only a part-time player in the PGA Tour picture.

Conway Farms will replace Cog Hill, the southside muni that quickly fell out of favor with Tour types following Rees Jones’ nip/tuck in 2008, as the venue for the 2013 BMW, but the event is scheduled to be played in Indiana in 2012 and Denver in 2014 and there is speculation it could make a cameo at San Francisco’s Harding Park in the near future.

Perhaps a city that clings to the idea that the Cubs’ next World Series title is just a season away is jaded enough to endure the Second City’s second-class status on Tour, but that doesn’t make it right.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).