Cut Line: Match Play finale highlight of languid West Coast swing

By Rex HoggardFebruary 28, 2014, 7:17 pm

As the PGA Tour arrives in Florida to begin the official run up to the Masters, we take one final look back at the eventful finale at last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and an otherwise languid Left Coast.

Made Cut

Good Day. The knock on Jason Day throughout much of his young career is that the Australian, while a fine player, lacked the intensity to close out tournaments under pressure.

Last week at Dove Mountain, Day may have finally put that rap to bed with his overtime victory against Victor Dubuisson. Because of the win-or-go-home nature of match play, each of Day’s six matches were a litmus test for a player who’d managed just one victory in six seasons on Tour.

“In golf you have to choke some and hopefully you win more than choke some,” Day said on Sunday. “But these experiences, these wins, and especially playing match play like this, it's so similar to playing Sunday rounds that it's a good experience to play in match play events because it just gets those juices flowing, what you're going to feel on Sundays at big events.”

Maybe Day’s Match Play marathon doesn’t translate to bigger and better things, but it did prove that he can close out rounds under pressure, and more pressure, and more pressure ...

Filling that Hollow feeling. It has been a season of change for Quail Hollow Club, the tony Charlotte, N.C., layout that has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship since it joined the PGA Tour line up in 2003.

The club recently underwent a dramatic redesign to prepare to host the 2017 PGA Championship. According to various sources, players should ready themselves for the new look when the event is played in early May.

The event also seems to have found a home away from home for 2017 when the Tour stop will have to move out of Quail Hollow to prepare for the year’s final major. Word on the practice tee last week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was that the Wells Fargo will be played at the Tom Fazio-designed Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., for one year.

The folks at the Wells Fargo have proven themselves adept at putting on a quality event and can now add another line to their resume – have PGA Tour event, will travel.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Woeful West. As the PGA Tour breaks camp and heads east it’s worth taking one last look at what turned out to be a wanting West Coast swing.

Perhaps the weak West Coast fields were a byproduct of the new wraparound schedule or simply changing priorities for the top players. But the ability to quantify how far the Left Coast has fallen is not up for debate.

This week’s Honda Classic, once a vagabond stop adrift in the Florida swing, will award 60 points to the champion. Only the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (72 points to the winner) – which was missing the world’s Nos. 1, 2 and 4 – received more points.

To make matters worse, the absence of a title sponsor and future venue for the Match Play means the event may move to greener pastures perhaps in Florida or even overseas, further weakening the West Coast.

Of course, Tour officials did have one bit of good news this year from the West Coast – it didn’t snow.

A helping hand. The financial axe that was falling on the men’s golf program at Furman has been stayed, at least for now.

In a letter sent from a group of former Furman players, including Brad Faxon, and obtained by GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner, the school will consider keeping the men’s team beyond this spring if the program can raise $285,000 to cover its operating cost for the next two years.

Beyond that, the program would have to establish an endowment of “no less” than $2 million by the end of 2015 to continue operations.

While the move was good news to anyone associated with the program, particularly the current players, the $285,000 needed to keep the doors open for two years is part of an effort by the university to stem a $6.3 million operating deficit in fiscal year 2014-15.

Considering the economics of scale, it seems cutting the men’s golf program would qualify as a penny wise and pound foolish decision.

Tweet of the week

Uihlein tweeted that after an opening 73 at the Honda Classic on Thursday, but it’s funny because Cut Line has that same line tattooed on his forearm.

Missed Cut

Social stupidity. Former PGA champion Steve Elkington has once again run afoul of common sense and socially accepted behavior on Twitter, this time with what appears to be a poor attempt at humor directed Michael Sam.

“ESPN reporting Michael Sam is leading the handbag throw at NFL combine ... No one else expected to throw today,” he tweeted.

Sam is the NFL hopeful who recently announced he has gay, while Elkington is the insensitive clown who continues to offend and astound with his blatant abuses of his right to free speech.

Elk has become the poster child for what is wrong with social media – just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

PGA Tour. Not surprisingly, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., clung to the company line when it came to Elkington’s faux pas this week, declining, as they always do, to talk about the crime or the punishment.

“Under our regulations, conduct unbecoming a professional includes public commentary that is clearly inappropriate or offensive. With respect to this matter, and consistent with our longstanding policy, we do not comment on player disciplinary matters,” a Tour statement read.

While Cut Line understands, although utterly disagrees, with the Tour’s policy of “go ahead and ask, we won’t tell” when it comes to punishments, how does that dovetail with ignoring the obvious?

Fine, don’t announce Elk’s punishment, which should be substantial, but at least have the common sense to take a stand against ignorant and offensive comments.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.