Cut Line: Optimism for LPGA; Bifurcation for the PGA Tour?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 25, 2013, 6:43 pm

Call it a contingent cut. The PGA Tour may consider bifurcation of the Rules of Golf if the proposed ban on anchoring is approved later this spring; Phil Mickelson will address his tax fortunes in the future if he decides to vote with his feet; and the PGA of America would consider a more democratic selection process for its captains if . . . well, two out of three isn’t bad.

In this edition of Cut Line we make sense of what was a qualified week.

Made Cut

LPGA. Cut Line ran into the circuit’s chief communications officer, Kraig Kann, this week at the PGA Merchandise Show and the former Golf Channel host couldn’t contain his excitement.

“We are extremely pleased with everything that is happening,” said Kann, his smile betraying how understated his take actually was.

On the same day, the tour announced it was adding a new, match-play event to its schedule in 2014 that will feature the game’s top players in a team format. The International Crown is just another baby step forward for a circuit that has cornered the market on “most improved” since Michael Whan took over as commissioner in 2010.

Whan & Co. have succeeded where many before them have failed in making the LPGA relevant. Now if only Kann would stop smiling.

Options. Few in golf can say so much without saying anything at all, but PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke volumes when he addressed the media following Tuesday’s mandatory players’ meeting at Torrey Pines.

With discontent growing among his constituency regarding the potential ban on anchoring, the commish left the door open to the possibility of bifurcation – or two sets of rules for amateurs and professionals.

“It certainly wouldn't be our objective. Our objective is to follow the rules and keep the rules together. Now, having said that, the whole question of bifurcation is always out there to be discussed,” he said. “Personally, I think in some situations bifurcation is OK.”

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a rousing endorsement for bifurcation consider Finchem’s unique dilemma. He has never wanted to be in the rulemaking business because of the inherent risks of creating regulations that benefit certain players while hurting others, but the anchoring debate has struck a nerve. As a result, the commish has decided an inflexible corner is no place to be and that it is always better to have options.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Lefty field. Regardless of which side of the political isle you reside and independent of the reality that all Americans are spending extra time studying the tax bill these days, Phil Mickelson’s foray into the world of tax-and-spend last week was ill-advised.

Just ask the big left-hander.

“My apology is for talking about it publicly, because I shouldn't take advantage of the forum that I have as a professional golfer to try to ignite change over these issues,” said Mickelson following comments last Sunday that suggested California’s new tax laws may require “drastic changes” on his part.

Few in the game are as PR savvy as Mickelson and his Wednesday mea culpa at Torrey Pines likely netted him more fans than he had before he launched into his dissertation on taxes at the Humana Challenge.

But for Lefty the lesson is clear: if California’s taxes are too high, pack up and more to Florida or Texas or one of the nine states without state income taxes like dozens of other Tour types. Sometimes the most powerful statements are made without saying a word.

Select audience. Following last week’s announcement that Paul McGinley would lead the European Ryder Cup team in 2014 at Gleneagles some, including your scribe, suggested that a similar selection process could benefit the U.S. side.

Ten members of the European Tour Tournament Committee voted unanimously for the Northern Irishman in ’14, although the debate was equal parts contentious at times and extremely public compared to how the U.S. selects captains.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop responded to those suggestions on Thursday and stressed that there was plenty of player input into the selection of Tom Watson to lead the ’14 team.

“It was a unanimous decision that Paul (Levy, PGA secretary) and Derek (Sprague, the association’s vice president) and I made, and it went with a lot of thought,” Bishop said.

Bishop also said that many former captains contacted him after the U.S. loss at Medinah last year, but the fact remains the ultimate decision was made by three hardworking and dedicated men who have nonetheless never played in a Ryder Cup and will not be between the ropes at Gleneagles.

This is neither an indictment of past U.S. captains or Watson, who by all accounts was a brilliant selection. Yet there is no denying that a structure that draws a captain directly from those who will be captained has worked well for the Continent in recent years. Getting U.S. players similarly involved with the selection is certainly worth consideration.

Tweet of the week: @Steve_Flesch “At the PGA Merchandise Show now. I obviously missed the ‘Free Navy Sport Coat’ stand when I walked in. #stiffs”

In related news, Flesch informed Cut Line on Friday that he doesn’t own a navy sport coat, so there you go.

Missed Cut

Quite Rors. It was never going to be fair for Rory McIlroy. The glitzy Monday announcement, the hype surrounding the Ulsterman when he showed up on the first tee last week in Abu Dhabi with a full lineup of Nike Golf gear in his bag, it was always going to be a difficult debut.

That McIlroy switched back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2 in Abu Dhabi only fanned the flames of instant analysis and, as he has in the past, the world No. 1 handled the scrutiny with honesty and aplomb.

“He put 14 clubs in the bag and hadn’t played in two months,” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting guru. “He’s pumped about the clubs. He has no question he can use those clubs, I just think it was a little bit early.”

Growing pains like last week’s missed cut in Abu Dhabi were always going to be the pitfalls of such a wholesale jump and Stockton’s take will likely be prophetic in the coming weeks, but in the punch bowl where McIlroy now resides every missed cut will only heighten the scrutiny.

As unfair as it all seems, this is McIlroy’s new reality and perhaps the greatest challenge of his young career. 

Getty Images

Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.