Cut Line: Follow along, if you can

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2017, 4:36 pm

Sergio Garcia highlight’s this week’s edition with a victory at Augusta National that was long overdue, while those who have argued for a longer off-season probably won’t look forward to this fall’s abbreviated break.

Made Cut

Major inspiration. Few things in sports are celebrated as much as perseverance and Garcia’s breakthrough on Sunday at the Masters was the textbook example of tenacity.

He drove down Magnolia Lane last week 0-for-73 in major championships, had openly figured as recently as 2012 the best he could do at Augusta National was finish in the top 5 and had famously blamed the golf gods for his poor fortune in Grand Slam play.

Yet under the most intense pressure at the major that many believed to be the least-likely option for the sometimes putting-challenged Spaniard, he persevered to win his first.

In many ways, Garcia’s victory is something of a paradigm of hope for those with similarly pedestrian records in the majors.

“I was thinking about [Lee] Westwood as I watched and was thinking what this could do to his mentality?” Graeme McDowell said. “You see another guy do something, I wouldn’t be surprised if he won at Royal Birkdale [site of this year’s Open]. Just that little something that kicks off in the back of your brain – maybe we can do it.”

Imagine Garcia’s legacy if his Masters victory transforms the title “best player without a major” into a “next man up” mentality.

Tweet of the week:

Fowler’s tweet on Sunday held a little more meaning after he began the final round at the Masters a stroke off the lead but struggled to a closing 76 to tie for 11th place.

Fowler quickly rebounded from his tough closing round at Augusta National, tweeting two days later, “#SB2K17 is on!” Yes, the boys are back at tony Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas for another week of hijinks.

One PGA Tour player, who asked not to be identified, said he received an invitation to attend this year’s edition but would do so only if the crew put away their phones and stayed clear of social media. Luckily for those of us who live vicariously through the frolicking foursome’s annual spring break gathering that was never going to happen.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Storm assessment. When Hilton Head Island, S.C., took a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew last October, officials initially worried that salt water from the storm surge would damage the 18th fairway, but it was the storm’s winds, which reportedly reached 90 mph, that caused the most damage at Harbour Town, site of this week’s RBC Heritage.

Harbour Town lost about 300 trees, which has ironically led to better turf quality and the best conditions many players have seen in years but has altered some of the playing characteristics of the iconic layout.

A large pine tree that used to loom about 50 yards short of the ninth green down the left side of the fairway was lost and a number of trees down the right side of the 10th fairway are now gone.

“At No. 10 you used to have to significantly hug that lake [down the left] to get to a back-right hole location and now I believe you can just bust driver down the right-hand side and hit it on the green,” said Jason Bohn after an opening-round 67. “Those are big differences.”

Although time will tell the actual impact of the lost trees, the par-4 ninth played to a 3.85 average on Day 1 and was the 14th toughest hole; while the par-4 10th had a 4.03 average and was the sixth toughest on Thursday. Both of those averages were higher than they were for Round 1 last year.

Augusta’s loss, Wells Fargo gain. Dustin Johnson’s 11th-hour withdrawal from last week’s Masters with an ailing back was certainly not a best-case scenario for either the world No. 1 or the year’s first major, but that episode has added a measure of excitement to next month’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Because this year’s PGA Championship will be played at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., the Wells Fargo has relocated to a new venue in Wilmington, N.C., a logistical necessity that has had a negative impact on the field.

Earlier this week Johnson announced he plans to return to the Tour at the Wells Fargo, joining the likes of Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, giving the event a much-needed boost.


Missed Cut

Out with the off-season. In recent years players, the press and fans have lamented the lack of any real off-season in golf with the introduction of the wrap-around schedule in 2014.

This might be tough to fathom, but there’s going to be even less time off this fall.

The Tour announced this week the dates for the CJ Cup, a limited-field event that will be played in South Korea. According to various sources and many tournaments’ own websites, the addition of the Asian event will shorten an already abbreviated off-season.

The last two years there have been two weeks between the Tour Championship in September and the start of the new season. But this fall there is only one week between seasons, with players going directly from East Lake to the Presidents Cup (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) followed by the season opener at the Safeway Open (Oct. 5-8).

From there the Tour will go to Asia for three events – CIMB Classic, CJ Cup and WGC-HSBC Champions – before returning to the United States to finish the year at the RSM Classic (Nov. 16-19).

Rumors of a dramatic schedule overhaul that would see the Tour season end on Labor Day continue to build. If the alternative is an off-season that spans the life expectancy of a mayfly those changes can’t get here soon enough.

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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm