Cut Line: O'Grady steps down; Reed's O.B. outburst

By Rex HoggardNovember 7, 2014, 4:35 pm

George O’Grady is out as the European Tour’s chief executive, Freddie Couples may be in as the Ryder Cup captain and Patrick Reed goes out of bounds in this week’s edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Bye George. It likely wasn’t the way George O’Grady wanted to step down, via a hasty press release in the middle of a four-event finals run, but the European Tour chief executive has made a career out of rolling with the changing times.

Severe economic headwinds in Europe and increased competition with the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup – a $10 million carrot many of the Continent’s best and brightest found impossible to ignore – made the CEO gig particularly demanding for O’Grady.

Still, O’Grady, who took over the post in January 2005, secured a lucrative deal for the creation of the Race to Dubai, established the Final Series and inked new TV deals last year.

Some will say O’Grady wasn’t aggressive enough at keeping Europe’s top players at home for more than just the occasional cameo and that the circuit has become too fragmented, but much like the news this week that he would be stepping down he was a pragmatist to the very end.

Freddie for ’16. It was a blunt and telling admission, “You know, I’m not a PGA of America guy,” Fred Couples told Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte last week.

While it’s true golf’s most interesting man wasn’t the PGA’s brand of vodka – what else would explain the association’s decision to bypass the undefeated Presidents Cup captain for a turn in the Ryder Cup chair? – that was the old PGA.

The new PGA, armed with a task force and a mandate to stop the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup slide, seems more inclined to outside of the box thinking, and Couples would be a popular change of course.

“When they all got home, they said, ‘We need you to do this,’” Couples said of the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s early lobbying.

Giving the U.S. side a popular captain is only part of the overhaul that will be needed to end Europe’s dominance in the biennial event, but it’s a good start.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Down the rabbit hole. When Dustin Johnson announced on July 31 that he was taking a leave of absence from golf because of “personal reasons,” there was plenty of speculation.

A day later when reported Johnson had been suspended by the PGA Tour for failing his third drug test the speculation went into overdrive.

Now, however, we have learned that not all of Johnson’s “personal reasons” were self-inflicted.

Last week the eight time Tour winner filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta claiming 17 counts of possible racketeering, wire fraud and negligence violations against a former adviser and his former partners.

The most damaging part of the suit involved allegations that Mark and Rod Wittstadt, who are partners with the Morris Firm who were named in the lawsuit, “threatened to disclose private and confidential information about Johnson ... should he commence a lawsuit to seek repayment of the money,” for a loan of $3 million.

Seems there was more to DJ’s “personal problems” then anyone could have ever speculated.

Tweet of the week:

Say this about the Iceman, he’s not without a healthy amount of perspective.

Missed Cut

An uneasy Reed. Earlier this year at the WGC-Cadillac Championship Patrick Reed caused a stir when he declared himself a top-5 player. At the Ryder Cup, he angered some European fans when he “shhh’ed” the crowd.

On Day 1 at the WGC-HSBC Champions Reed reacted to a three-putt at his first hole with an expletive and a gay slur that was picked up by television microphones.

“I’m sorry for using offensive language today in China. My passion to play well got the best of me and my word choice was unacceptable,” Reed tweeted.

The same passion that made Reed one of the American team’s few bright spots at September’s Ryder Cup is also to blame for his outburst in China.

There is no doubt Reed has the potential to be star, as well as the petulance to be his own worst nightmare.

The (Tour’s) golden rule. You know the deal, if you don’t have anything nice to say ... Or so the Tour figures when it comes to its members’ missteps, a truth that was hammered home this week with a pair of high-profile miscues.

With surprising speed, the Tour sent out a release following Reed’s slur at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Not surprising, the release was short on details.

“The PGA Tour ‘conduct unbecoming regulations’ prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations,” a Tour statement read.

Earlier in the week, the circuit’s decision to not speak ill of its members reached new levels when news emerged from the PGA Tour China that Xin-Jun Zhang had been suspended for six months for signing incorrect scorecards.

Zhang, the China circuit’s leading money winner, is a lock to earn a 2015 Tour, which is sure to test the Tour’s silence is golden rule.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., may be able to sidestep media scrutiny by clinging to an outdated concept of smoke and mirrors, but questions from its own membership over issues of competitive integrity may prove more difficult to avoid.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."