Cut Line: Palmer celebrates and is honored

By Rex HoggardSeptember 14, 2012, 9:22 pm

No PGA Tour cut this week, no Tour event, but no worries, Cut Line has you covered with the good (Arnold Palmer), the bad (Women’s British Open) and the ugly (FedEx Cup math).

Made Cut

The King. The same week he celebrated his 83rd birthday Arnold Palmer was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given to civilians by Congress and the spry “King” didn’t miss a beat.

“I’m particularly proud of anything that the House and Senate agree on,” he smiled.

Perhaps the best part of the ceremony was during Jack Nicklaus’ speech when an emotional Golden Bear offered, “He’s a golf icon to the world – a good friend to me.”

Mel Brooks was right, it’s good to be the king.

One for the Mid-Ams. Nathan Smith won his fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur title Thursday at Conway Farms outside Chicago, beating Canadian hockey referee Garrett Rank, 1 up, in the final (seriously, we couldn’t make this up) and likely earning his fourth trip to the Masters.

Smith, 34, won his first Mid-Am in 2003 and followed with victories in ’09 and ’10. He’s also played on two U.S. Walker Cup teams.

We crossed paths with Smith two years ago at Augusta National following a particularly eventful 77 on Friday and asked if he was all right? “I tried on every single shot,” he beamed.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III: if you’re looking for a possible alternate Smith wouldn’t be a bad option.

Tweet of the week: @KipHenley (PGA Tour caddie Kip Henley) “Slow play haters hate Ben Crane’s golf but if they could stand beside him for a day or two they would love his soul.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Weather warnings. Cut Line isn’t sure who should own this one, tournament organizers at the Women’s British Open or the United Kingdom weathermen who booted Friday’s forecast at Royal Liverpool, although in fairness to English meteorologists, weather predictions in the U.K. seem more of an art than a science.

Either way, those who marched out into winds that gusted to 60 mph early in Round 2 were thankful that officials halted play after an hour as conditions deteriorated and players struggled to keep golf balls from rolling off tees and greens.

Scores from the morning gale were eventually declared “ and void” and play was scheduled to restart on Saturday followed by a 36-hole Sunday.

“It would have been unfair to those competitors not to declare play and void and cancel all scores for the round,” said tournament director Susan Simpson.

Although wiping out the morning carnage seemed like the right thing to do, officials should expect armchair officiating on this one – cue Sergio Garcia on Line 1: “Why me, Sergio, why?”

Fall fortune and forlorn. One man’s missed opportunity is another’s good break. At least that would be the case with Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley, two of the Tour’s most consistent performers in recent years who struggled in the playoffs and failed to advance past the second round.

Normally both family men would use the fall to catch up on home time but because of their positions on various lists they will likely be headed back to work soon.

Day is currently 97th on the Tour money list with $918,000 and is likely assured a card in 2013 but indications are he will play the Open in October to assure his status.

While Baddeley, whose wife is due to have the couple’s third child the first week of December, is exempt next season via his 2011 Northern Trust Open victory, but at 47th in the world golf ranking would probably play in the fall to maintain his status inside the top 50.

All of which is not ideal for either player, but Fall Series tournament directors, who are always scrambling to improve their fields, aren’t going to complain.

Missed Cut

Unrealistic expectations. Instead of celebrating Rory McIlroy’s two-stroke victory at the BMW Championship or his third triumph in four Tour starts or his 3.2-point lead over No. 2 Tiger Woods in the world golf ranking some in the world press elected to use the occasion, and perhaps an ill-timed comment by the Ulsterman, to rekindle a debate over whether he will play for Ireland or Great Britain in the Olympics . . . that’s the 2016 Games.

The fervor of the debate reached such a crescendo that McIlroy felt compelled to release an “open letter” to explain his position via Twitter.

McIlroy will have to make a tough choice when the time comes, but until then we should simply enjoy the show on the course.

Resets. With his victory at the BMW Championship, the bookend triumph of a one-and-one playoff run that began with his Deutsche Bank Championship “W” just six days earlier, McIlroy moved 3,232 points clear of No. 2 Woods in the FedEx Cup points race.

But before the Ulsterman arrived for his guest spot on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on Wednesday his lead had been narrowed to 250 points via the circuit’s pre-Tour Championship reset. The only good news for McIlroy is that the Tour’s mathematicians don’t have another “off” week to tinker with the FedEx formula.

The reset was designed to keep the Tour Championship from becoming a non-story like it was in 2007 when Vijay Singh won; but consider the stories that will be written if McIlroy – the consensus player of the year this season – doesn’t win the cup and the $10 million lottery ticket goes to, say, No. 25 Webb Simpson. Outlandish? Nope, last year’s cup was won by Bill Haas, who was 25th and winless for the season when he arrived at East Lake.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

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

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.