Cut Line Match Play Edition

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2011, 4:59 am

The cut comes early in the Arizona desert, particularly for the likes of Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter. But the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship can still provide some drama for those inclined to brave an inclement forecast to see a bomber’s bout between J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson.

Made Cut

J.B. Holmes. Five consecutive weeks on the road, two cross-country flights in two days and a golf course as foreign as a three-shot par 5 couldn’t derail Holmes, nor could three of the week’s toughest opponents (Camilo Villegas, Ernie Els and Jason Day).

The man from Campbellsville, Ky., has run through the Match Play field and set the stage for what may well be the week’s most entertaining match with Bubba Watson early Saturday in the quarterfinals.

WGC-Match Play TV Schedule
(All times Eastern)

Golf Channel_new

Sat: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

NBC Sports
Sat: 2-6 p.m.

Sun: 2-6 p.m.

Now, if only they’d move a major to Arizona, Holmes would start looking like a first-vote Hall-of-Famer.

West Coast. If the Wild West Coast Swing is any indicator, we should expect first-time winners at all the majors, no Monday finishes and a tough summer for the top of the game’s star marquee.

Among the highlights of the West Coast Swing was Jhonattan Vegas’ magical two weeks starting at the Bob Hope Classic, Bubba Watson’s breakthrough – and breakdown – at Torrey Pines against Phil Mickelson and Mark Wilson’s quiet march to star status.

Of course, the Tour may be sending out APB’s for its stars following the Left Coast run – Tiger Woods failed to contend at Torrey Pines or Tucson; Mickelson wasn’t a factor after San Diego and the Elite Eight at the Match Play include just two players who have won majors.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Match Play on the move. Lots of talk this week about the WGC-Match Play heading to greener, or at least warmer, pastures. Most insiders say the tournament will move, the only question is where?

“Cut Line” would like to suggest Riviera Country Club. The Northern Trust Open is already run by the Tour’s Championship Management division, which also runs the WGCs, the golf course is a match play match and the Riv’s location is the perfect tonic for Dove Mountain’s end-of-the-road seclusion.

Harbor Town in Hilton Head, S.C., would also be a win-win for the Tour. The Lowcountry stop seems stymied in its search for a sponsor and the quirky-cozy layout could be set up for speed and scoring. And if all that isn’t enough, the shrimp and grits are to die for.

Match play. The format, not the tournament. It is the professional game’s ultimate love-hate relationship. We revel in close duels like Martin Kaymer and Hunter Mahan’s shootout on Friday but recoil when the top seeds tumble like they did this week.

In order, Woods, Mickelson and Lee Westwood all made early exits, leaving surprisingly quiet galleries strangely wanting for the safety of 72 holes of stroke play.

Tweet of the Week: “Bubba did good today! It’s been a great week so far. Fun match tomorrow with (J.B. Holmes).”

“Cut Line” would agree, but then nobody asked “Cut Line.”

Missed Cut

Tiger Woods. No, it’s not that 19-hole first-round flameout that landed Woods on the wrong side of the weekend axe, it is an apparent detachment from competitive reality.

On the one hand, the world No. 3 says his new swing is coming along but he needs “reps,” and yet even after a short week in the Arizona desert he wasn’t interested in adding to his schedule heading into the Masters.

At this rate he will motor down Magnolia Lane with 13 competitive rounds under his belt this year at best. Not exactly ideal when change is afoot.

“Tiger is lacking two things: competitive rounds and confidence,” said one Tour fraternity brother. “Until he realizes that the more he puts his swing under the gun and tests its nuances and dependability in tournaments and not at the ‘bubble’ known as Isleworth, he’s never going to be able to trust it enough to know it’s going to hold up when it really matters.”

Tweet of the Week II. @HankDHaney: “For all the talk of Tiger’s poor driving the last six years I have never seen him drive it out of play with a match or tournament on the line.”

Woods’ record with Haney (a 51 percent winning clip on the PGA Tour the last 3 ½ years) should end all debates, not snarky comments.

World Golf Championships. On Tuesday, world No. 1 Lee Westwood scaled a familiar soap box, chiding the powers that be for being insular or without a third-grader’s grasp of global geography.

To date, 37 WGC's have been played, just six of those outside the Lower 48, and that’s not counting the WGC-HSBC Champions which doesn’t award official money.

The idea was to grow the game globally, or maybe just quiet Greg Norman. Instead the only thing the WGC’s have grown is the Tour’s bottom line.

Ian Poulter. First the Englishman was petulant in his Round 1 match against Stewart Cink, chiding a ShotLink crew for making noise and barking obscenities at the sixth green when he failed to hole his bogey putt (at least he didn’t spit on the putting surface).

Then he complained that his tee time, first off on Wednesday, was not befitting the event’s defending champion before storming out of Tucson. Never mind that he was the 12th-seeded player when the field was set on Feb. 14. Never mind that even as defending champion there is no guarantee he would make it back this year if he didn’t stay inside the top 64 in the world.

We’ve seen this act before but thought it had been cleaned up when Sergio Garcia took a sabbatical last year.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

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?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

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

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

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.