Cut Line: A momentous week for golf

By Rex HoggardMay 20, 2016, 9:01 pm

IRVING, Texas – Golf hit for the cycle this week with news that Phil Mickelson has been cleared of any criminal activity in an SEC investigation, Muirfield Golf Club’s membership vote will cost the layout a foreseeable Open, and the world Nos. 2 and 3 remind the golf world that it’s not a one-horse race.

Made Cut

Objects are closer than they appear. It’s been a good week for those who savor parity.

After missing the cut at TPC Sawgrass, Jordan Spieth bounced back with rounds of 64-65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson for a share of the early lead on Friday

During the same news cycle, Rory McIlroy opened with rounds of 67-70 at the Irish Open and is just a stroke off the lead in his quest to win for the first time in 2016.

Jason Day ascended to a new level with his victory last week at The Players and solidified his stranglehold on the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, leading some to proclaim the Jason era upon us.

Less than a week later, Spieth and McIlroy proved yet again that golf is at its best when the top players are at their best. Turns out the guys that kept telling us they were close, really were.

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Insider moments. It was an eventful week for Phil Mickelson.

On Wednesday, Lefty was named host of the CareerBuilder Challenge, taking over for former U.S. President Bill Clinton in an attempt by the PGA Tour to breathe new life into an event that is wedged into a difficult spot on the international schedule.

Less than 24 hours later, Mickelson was named a “relief defendant” in a Securities and Exchange Commission case against Las Vegas investor and gambler Billy Walters and Thomas Davis, the former chairman of Dean Foods.

Thursday’s filing was vindication of sorts for Mickelson, who agreed to pay back the money he earned ($931,000 plus interest) from his purchase of Dean Foods stock prior to an upcoming spin-off announcement.

“The complaint does not assert that Phil Mickelson violated the securities laws in any way. On that point, Phil feels vindicated,” Mickelson’s lawyer said in a statement. “At the same time, however, Phil has no desire to benefit from any transaction that the SEC sees as questionable.”

Few things can tarnish a reputation, particularly a reputation that has been as carefully crafted as Mickelson’s, like a white-collar crime allegation, but give Lefty credit for mitigating the damage.

Members only. Two hundred and seventy-one years of history are hard to ignore. Despite an avalanche of public opinion against them you have to acknowledge that the 36 percent of Muirfield Golf Club members who voted against allowing females to join the club have the right to run their private course however they see fit.

Yet while some viewed Thursday’s vote, which fell 14 votes shy of passing, to allow women members as a blow to a game that continues to struggle with an elitist reputation, it is the reaction that should give those who want the game to grow encouragement.

The R&A swiftly and decisively removed Muirfield from the Open rotation, sending a strong message to other clubs – most notably Royal Troon, which will host this year’s championship and also doesn’t allow female members.

The members' vote spoke loudly, but the R&A’s reaction made a much more meaningful statement.

Tweet of the week: @Beany25 (Catriona Matthew) “Embarrassed to be a Scottish women golfer from East Lothian after that decision.”

Thursday’s vote set social media abuzz, but Matthew’s take was the most poignant.

Missed Cut

Wentworth woes. Just when it seemed that only PGA Tour events were taking a hit this year because of the crowded golf calendar, the European Tour’s flagship event was beset by a series of high profile no-shows.

McIlroy opted not to play next week’s BMW PGA Championship after three consecutive weeks on the road, including this week’s Irish Open, which he is hosting.

On Thursday, Justin Rose announced he would miss the event at Wentworth because of a back issue, and Ernie Els told Cut Line that he is also skipping the event to spend time with his daughter, who recently celebrated her 17th birthday.

This season’s condensed schedule has taken a toll on the global golf calendar, not just those events inside the Lower 48.

The voice. For many golf fans around the world, Peter Alliss is the voice of golf, all of which makes his comments regarding Thursday’s members vote at Muirfield that much more baffling.

Alliss told The Telegraph, “The fact is if you talked to the wives of members of Muirfield they would be horrified at the prospect of being allowed to join.”

He went on to say that women members wouldn’t want to pay club fees and even suggested that an “open letter” sent to members prior to the vote was written by a woman.

Club officials said the open letter, which was signed by 33 members, likely led to the defeat of the proposal.

“The introduction of lady members is bound to create difficulties,” the letter read, according to The Telegraph. “They are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements. It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them.”

There is no shortage of reasons to question Muirfield’s all-male membership policy, but the most pressing question we have is what are they serving for lunch that the addition of females would ruin?

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.