Cut Line: Look out, DJ's swagger is back

By Rex HoggardSeptember 1, 2017, 9:25 pm

NORTON, Mass. – With this week’s scheduled Monday finish at the Dell Technologies Championship, Saturday is the official cut but there’s still enough this and that to fill this week’s edition.

Made Cut

DJ being DJ. Remember that time when Dustin Johnson won three consecutive events? Yeah, that was cool.

Unfortunately for the rest of the field at TPC Boston, it’s starting to look a lot like spring, when Johnson won three straight and arrived at the Masters as an overwhelming favorite before being sidelined by injury.

But now that swagger has returned, with the bomber following his playoff victory over Jordan Spieth last week at the post-season opener on Long Island with a 5-under 66 to take the early lead at the Dell Technologies Championship.

“I feel like the things I've been working on, they are back to working,” Johnson said. “I'm feeling good, so I think that's a big key for me.”

Asked last Sunday if he thought he was now in the race for the Player of the Year Award, Johnson said he would be if he were to win two or three playoffs events. How about all four?

Houston Strong. The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey has touched millions, including a handful of PGA Tour and LPGA players.

Chris Stroud, who was unable to fly home from New York to Houston last week because of the storm, said his house was transformed into a makeshift shelter for those in his neighborhood who lost power or suffered flood damage.

“We had 20 people come to my house, including kids. They have been there since last Friday. They made a ton of food. I have a generator,” Stroud said. “We were set up for this type of thing, and not thinking we would ever use it like this, but obviously it came in handy.”

As is normally the case when disaster strikes, Stroud joined a growing list of golfers who wanted to help those impacted by the storm by donating $10,000 and 10 percent of his winnings this week at TPC Boston to the relief effort.

Fellow Houston resident Jhonattan Vegas donated $25,000 to the fund created by Houston Texan J.J. Watt; and Stacy Lewis will donate all of her winnings this week at the Cambria Portland Classic to help the community.

And the list didn’t stop there, with the likes of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia donating for every birdie and eagle they make in the playoffs, proving yet again that the worst of times often brings out the best in us.

Tweet of the week: ‏ @GrahamDeLaet (Graham DeLaet) “[Retired NHL right wing] Shane Doan is Steve Stricker nice. Congrats on a great career. #HOF #rafters #19”

Couple things, that Stricker has become an adjective – as in, he’s such a Steve Stricker – is all at once telling and deserved. That DeLaet, who went toe-to-toe with a Twitter troll last week, remains one of the nicest guys on social media or otherwise, makes him, well, a Steve Stricker.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

First impressions. There was no room for interpretation, “awful,” said one player on Tuesday after playing the redesigned 12th hole at TPC Boston.

Others weren’t so kind, and that opinion didn’t change as more and more players got a look at architect Gil Hanse’s handiwork.

“I thought it was a great hole before. I personally don't think that it was a very good job re-designing it,” Justin Thomas said. “I thought 12 was one of the better holes on the course, and 13 was a great hole, too.”

Hanse wanted to make the 12th hole more difficult. Check. He wanted to make players think. Check. He wanted the new hole to fit in with the rest of the course. Well, two out of three isn’t that bad.

“The conversation we’ve had with three or four players is, ‘Listen, just give it three or four rounds. Try to figure it out,’” Hanse told Cut Line. “If we build a golf hole that the players can figure out after one round, then we probably haven’t done our job challenging them.”

Maybe the narrative will be different on Monday after a few more trips down the lengthened 12th hole, but given the general distaste that doesn’t seem likely.

Back to Boston? There’s been lots of talk in recent weeks about what the 2019 Tour schedule could look like and one of the common themes is a possible reduction in the number of playoff events.

Along those lines, the Boston-area stop seems like the most likely of the four on the chopping block, a difficult choice made even harder by the fact the tournament is one of the best-attended post-season events.

“There's still a chance that we would still move up here every other year or something. So there's still a lot of options available,” said Spieth, suggesting a move that would put TPC Boston into the rotation to host either The Northern Trust or BMW Championship. “I think a shortened, condensed season ending before football is better for us because it gives us an opportunity to have these end-of-the-season events that are big events for us.”

While most players agree, at least in theory, with a more condensed schedule that doesn’t go head-to-head with football season, it’s worth pointing out that whatever form of contraction the Tour embraces there will be a cost.

Missed Cut

Show up, shut up, clean up. The Tour’s best caddies are a combination of sports psychologist and mathematician, carefully considering the odds as well as his man’s mental state with each shot, but it’s the manual labor part of the gig that recently drew the attention of the circuit’s rule makers.

The Tour sent a memo to caddies in July regarding bunker maintenance and divot repair.

“Recently, a number of players have commented on the lack of consistency related to divot repair and bunker maintenance,” the memo read. “It is the responsibility of every caddie to ensure that all divots are repaired appropriately, that any debris created by a shot is properly cleaned and that all bunkers are maintained in a manner commensurate with a PGA Tour event.”

A “how to” guide was attached to the memo in case caddies needed a refresher course on how to properly rake a bunker. Maybe it’s just Cut Line, but this memo would carry a little more weight if the caddies and Tour weren’t locked in an ongoing legal battle over health care and retirement benefits.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."