Cut Line: Mickelson's schedule change can only help

By Rex HoggardOctober 25, 2013, 3:53 pm

From Phil Mickelson’s move to quality over quantity to the PGA Tour’s misguided notion that limited fields provide unlimited benefits, this week’s edition examines the science of diminishing returns.

Made Cut

When less means more. To say that Phil Mickelson has been guilty of over-thinking things over the course of his Hall of Fame career is an understatement. This is, after all, the same guy who played a U.S. Open without a driver in his bag and a Masters with two drivers.

But given Mickelson’s performances in this year’s top events, his decision to curtail his schedule in future years in order to peak for the majors seems less questionable than it does a qualified breakthrough.

“My whole purpose and focus will be ... participating in certain tournaments that will help me play well in those majors,” Lefty said this week. “A tournament that is taking place two months prior or after a major championship that has no impact on my ability to perform well in a major, those are tournaments that I won't put as much importance on.”

Only time will tell if tailoring his schedule will deliver a U.S. Open title and the final leg of the career Grand Slam, but it certainly can’t hurt. Mickelson suggested earlier this year he would trim about 25 percent of his starts in future seasons.

Talent has never been an issue for Mickelson. When properly motivated the southpaw is virtually unbeatable (see Championship, Open 2013), and if logging fewer miles on the G5 is the tonic for success then so be it.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Holding court. Attorneys for the PGA Tour and Vijay Singh met for the first time this week in the New York Supreme Court’s Commercial Division to argue a motion to dismiss the Fijian’s lawsuit stemming from his dust-up with the circuit’s anti-doping program.

Judge Eileen Bransten heard arguments from both sides on Thursday and although no ruling was forthcoming the case seems as complex as it is contentious.

Singh admitted in a January article on to using the Ultimate Spray, which contained the substance IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Tour. He was later absolved of the violation when WADA issued a statement stipulating that taken in such small amounts IGF-1 was not a violation unless it resulted in a positive test. Singh has never failed a drug test.

In May, Singh sued the Tour for, among other things, public humiliation, claiming “as a result of the Tour’s action, Singh has been labeled by the Tour, media, some fellow golfers and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.”

About a month later, lawyers for the Tour filed a motion to dismiss Singh’s lawsuit citing his membership agreement, which stipulates his only avenue for relief resulting from a doping violation is via an arbitration hearing, which was canceled following the WADA announcement.

Cut Line is still not sure what benefits deer-antler spray provides, but judge Bransten may need some before this is over.

Missed Cut

Playoff problems. As anyone in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., can tell you, applying the postseason concept to golf is not exactly a perfect fit, but the new format for the European Tour’s Final Series is even more confusing and flawed than the FedEx Cup.

Consider that under the new rules for the four-event Final Series, players must play at least two of the three postseason events to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which considering the far-flung venues of the first three events (China and Turkey) is not exactly easy.

Compounding matters is the qualification criteria for the WGC-HSBC Champions, which is the second leg of the Final Series. Some players who are qualified for the European circuit’s postseason are not even exempt into next week’s World Golf Championship in China.

“If you are not in the top 20 in the world or so, you’re not going to know if you are in some of those events until the last minute,” said Rocky Hambric, the president of Hambric Sports Management. “How can you hold someone to that kind of standard? You have to play two out of three and you may not be in one of them.”

The result was a messy situation on Thursday at the BMW Masters, the first playoff event, when Joost Luiten hit his opening tee shot and walked off the golf course with an injury.

“Strange scenario today paired with Joost Luiten, he hit (his) drive off the first then withdrew with (a) shoulder injury, that one shot meant event counted for him” Luke Donald tweeted. “New Euro Tour rule this year states that you have to play at least two out (of) three events before Race to Dubai to be eligible. If that rule wasn’t in affect then Joost would have withdrawn prior to event and first reserve would have got to play this week’s event.”

It’s almost enough to make one pine for East Lake and all of those FedEx Cup algorithms. Almost.

When less is less. The PGA Tour’s transition to a split-calendar schedule has not exactly been painless for those who were counting on the fall starts to pad their positions on the FedEx Cup points list.

Part of the problem has been stronger fields at the first two 2013-14 stops ( Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), which created a Catch-22 for the circuit. Deeper tee sheets are great for sponsors, but not so good for those Tour Final graduates who were counting on some early-season playing time.

Compounding the issue is this week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia, which for the first time awards FedEx Cup points but features a limited, 78-man field. Not a single member of this year’s Tour category made it into the CIMB field.

Somewhere along the way Tour officials confused “limited field” with special, ignoring the fact that three of the year’s top four events (U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship) seem to do just fine with 156-player fields.

Getty Images

Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Getty Images

Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

Getty Images

Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.