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.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.