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.

Getty Images

Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”