Cut Line Mid-Term Grades
This week’s Texas Open is the 21st of 41 FedEx Cup season events. But if Tour golf finds itself at the turn the collective mid-term would have to be an incomplete – what with too much still to be decided at Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and beyond. Individually, however, the outward loop is littered with plenty to celebrate and slam.
Youth. It’s not often the media’s unrealistic expectations set the bar too low, but the freshman class has delivered like few expected in 2010.
Rickie Fowler, 21, hasn’t won but he’s done everything but collect the oversized check, posting four top-10s, finishing runner-up in Phoenix and securing his Tour card for next year.
The leader in the clubhouse for Rookie the Year, however, is Rory McIlroy. Two days shy of his 21st birthday the Northern Irishman put on a clinic at Quail Hollow, carding the rounds of the day on Saturday and Sunday on his way to Tour glory. CBS Sports funnyman David Feherty said it best, “There’s winning and there’s whatever that was.”
Augusta National. The powers that be behind the bamboo wanted cheers, they wanted to change the tune and they wanted to make a point. Check, check and check.
With a user-friendly set up the green jackets rattled the pines – one long-time caddie said the Saturday pins were as accessible as he’d ever seen – and kept the conversation on golf, not fire hydrants or scandals, but not before doing what no other entity in golf had the power, or the will, to do – call out Woods for his actions.
“I hope (Woods) now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile,” club chairman Billy Payne said.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Phil Mickelson. That slow start, recall Lefty had just one top-10 finish in his first seven events, seems like a lifetime ago. In fact, everything post-5-iron, that is Mickelson’s bold second shot from the pine straw on Augusta National’s 13th hole on Sunday, could be classified as Lefty’s preseason.
Everything, that is, except for his petulant decision to use an old Ping Eye2 wedge with grooves that were grandfathered in to start the season. The same can be said for his characterization of Quail Hollow’s greens as the Tour’s “worst designed.” Or his thinly-veiled plug of a hamburger restaurant last week at The Players. A chain, by the by, Mickelson is in business with.
At his best Mickelson has filled the void left by Woods and filled the season with hope. We just wish he’d use his powers for good rather than petty politics or personal gain.
PGA Tour. In a down economy Tour suits have scrambled to keep the financial impact to a minimum, although the real test for Camp Ponte Vedra Beach will come as the circuit begins negotiations for a new network television contract to replace the current deal which expires in 2012.
The landscape seems destined to change, however. Tour officials appeared less-than-engaged as organizers in Hilton Head worked feverishly to replace Verizon, which pulled its sponsorship of the post-Masters staple this season, and the fate of Quail Hollow, the Tour’s preeminent mini-major, seems in jeopardy as the club inches closer to landing a proper major.
At this point, Tour types appear less concerned with the possibility of a double-dip recession than they are double-digit victory totals, but it’s looking less likely the game escapes the downturn unscathed.
New grooves. More newsprint, research dollars and blustering was wasted in the name of accuracy and for what?
The Tour’s current driving distance average is 281.7 yards, that’s down from 287.9 yards in 2009 and 287.3 yards in 2008; but driving accuracy – the benchmark for those who pushed for the new groove standard – has also dropped to 61.75 percent, down from a 62.91 percent average in 2009 and 63.16 percent in ’08. The point is Tour players are no more interested in the short grass now than they were before this year’s rule change.
As one player put it when he was recently asked to participate in a clinic for the U.S. Golf Association: “I asked them not to change the grooves, so I’d say we’re even.”
Tweet of the Term. @PGA_JohnDaly. Pick a Tweet, any Tweet will do. From his self-serving commercialism to his self-entitled rants against tournament directors who don’t give him sponsor exemptions, Daly’s non-stop drivel is social media at its worst.
Tiger Woods. The guy who used to own Sunday is now having a hard time just making it to the sabbath.
Woods has been as uninspired in his last two starts (MC, WD) as he was uplifted at Augusta National (fourth place), but it’s impossible to ignore a game well short of his best, a mysterious injury with plenty of long-term potential and a swing coach who had seen enough.
Nine rounds into the comeback it’s far too early for a rush to judgment, and Wednesday’s MRI was encouraging, but suddenly Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Slam benchmark doesn’t seem like a foregone conclusion.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.