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. 

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.