Cut Line: Matters of international concern

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2017, 7:35 pm

It’s been a curious week of delays in golf, with a weather delay in France prompting officials to reduce the LPGA major to 54 holes, and with play suspended at a Japan Golf Tour event because of a North Korean missile test.


Made Cut

New Day. When I first met Jason Day on the porch overlooking Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, Australia, prior to his first start on the Web.com Tour in 2007, it was clear his relationship with Colin Swatton went deep.

Swatton had become Day’s coach when the gangly teen-ager showed up at Kooralbyn International School, but the relationship evolved dramatically from there.

Swatton became the Australian’s caddie when he turned pro in 2006, but more importantly he became a surrogate father for Day, who lost is own father to cancer when he was 12 years old.

So it was news on Wednesday when Day showed up for this week’s BMW Championship and Swatton wasn’t there, replaced by a friend of Day’s, Luke Reardon.

“Sometimes the chemistry just doesn't work,” said Day, who has referred to Swatton as a father figure. “He's been my coach since I'm 12. Obviously this is a very hard time for both of us with regards to we had a relationship for so long, my caddie for 11 years.”

It clearly wasn’t an easy decision for Day, and he stressed that Swatton remains his swing coach. It’s also worth noting that in golf these things happen. Phil Mickelson’s split with his longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay earlier this season is an obvious example.

It was sad not seeing Swatton on Day’s bag this week, but we should take stock of all he and Day have accomplished since those humble early days at Kooyonga.

2024 and beyond. It was no great surprise that the International Olympic Committee approved a proposal that would keep golf and the 27 other sports played last year in Rio in the Olympic program for the 2024 Games.

But Friday’s announcement was still a reason for those who led golf’s return to the Olympics to celebrate.

“It puts the icing on the cake. We had a great Games and proved that golf has a place in the Olympics,” said Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation that oversees golf in the Olympics.

Widely considered a success following the competition last year in Rio, golf’s return to the Games for the first time in more than 100 years wasn’t as seamless as some would have hoped.

Many of the game’s top players skipped the ’16 Games for various reasons and it took a Herculean effort to complete the Rio Golf Course in time for the Games. All of which makes Friday’s news much more than simply a rubber stamp.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Olympic options. It is curious how this week’s announcement that golf will remain an Olympic sport through 2024 has rekindled a debate over a possible format change.

Some found last year’s format of 72 holes of stroke play too uninspired for the Olympics and various alternatives have been suggested, including calls for a team portion to the competition.

Scanlon said the format will remain unchanged for the 2020 Games in Tokyo and explained that adding new elements to the men’s and women’s golf competitions is more complicated than some may think.

“Timing is an element, there is a finite number of days of the competition, and you aren’t left much for a team competition and you don’t want to devalue the medal by rushing a competition,” Scanlon said. “We have spoken to a number of players and they weren’t too happy trying to shoehorn in another event. It’s been a long year for the players, so the work load was another consideration.”

Scanlon said the IGF, along with the IOC, will “reflect” on the competitions after the ’20 Games, and consider additional formats, either a change to the current competition (like a shift to match play) or a new team element.

On this, however, critics should remember that time may not be on golf’s side.


Missed Cut

Major mistake. Each May, the inevitable conversation turns to whether or not The Players is the PGA Tour’s fifth major, and in recent years the circuit has taken a noticeably low-profile approach to the debate.

It seems those in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., have realized etching the words into a title don’t make it a major, and that point was proven this week when LPGA officials reduced the Evian to 54 holes after a storm suspended play on Day 1.

“We know that if we said 72 holes and we start again tomorrow [Friday], we're probably looking at Monday and Tuesday, and that's not great for anyone,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.

Yes, Monday finishes are awkward and rarely generate the same amount of interest as a Sunday conclusion, but if you’re going to call the Evian a major there are basic tenets that need to be followed.

Majors have the game’s deepest fields, are played on the most challenging courses (although there are a few notable exceptions to this), and are contested over 72 holes, or more, even if that means the event finishes on Monday.

Tweet of the week.

Griffin, an Australian professional, was referring to the ANA Open, a Japan Golf Tour event that temporarily suspended play during Round 2 when North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

In related news, the PGA Tour is scheduled to play its first sanctioned event in South Korea next month, the 78-player CJ Cup, which will include the top 60 available players off this season’s FedExCup points list.

According to a statement from the Tour, “From a safety and security point of view, we will continually monitor, review and evaluate the situation. Should future circumstances or developments dictate a change in our position, we will promptly advise all parties accordingly.”

Stay tuned.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.