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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.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.