Cut Line: Spieth has cake and eats it, too

By Rex HoggardJuly 28, 2017, 3:30 pm

In a “dog days” edition of Cut Line, we savor Jordan Spieth’s historic Open victory, lament knee-jerk reactions to record scoring and look ahead to what the late-summer PGA Tour schedule could look like in coming years.

Made Cut

A golden week. By the time Jordan Spieth boarded his private jet bound for the U.S. it was the dawn of a new week that promised to bring new milestones.

On Sunday, Spieth won The Open in dramatic fashion with arguably the greatest bogey in major championship history on the 13th hole and three birdies and an eagle over his next four holes to secure the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

On Thursday, Spieth celebrated his 24th birthday in style, with a cake balanced atop the claret jug and an eye toward the future.

Most players would need some time to process the last five days, but Spieth’s intermission will be short lived. He gets back to work next week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – for what it’s worth, he’s never won a World Golf Championship – and he will arrive at next month’s PGA Championship with a chance to become the youngest player to ever complete the career slam.

As Ferris Bueller famously opined: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Tweet of the week:

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rush to judgment. In the wake of another record scoring week at The Open that included Branden Grace’s 62 on Saturday at Royal Birkdale came a predictably misguided call to action.

One golf writer went so far as to argue that the only solution to out-of-control scoring is 9,000- to 10,000-yard golf courses, a solution that drew the ire of many fans and players.

More real estate is not the answer, as evidenced by Erin Hills at last month’s U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka scorched the 7,800-yard layout with a 16-under total and Justin Thomas’ 9-under 63 on Saturday is now the lowest score in relation to par at a men’s major.

Given the premise that golf’s ruling bodies are unable or uninterested in rolling back equipment, it’s not longer courses that will stem the scoring tide but more nuanced designs.

Consider Colonial, site of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, currently ranks as the sixth-toughest layout on the Tour this season at 7,200 yards and featured just a single player, champion Kevin Kisner, double digits (10 under) under par.

If low scoring is an issue – and the massive crowds at both Royal Birkdale and Erin Hills suggest otherwise – better-designed courses, not a few hundred (or thousand) more yards, is the only realistic answer.

Change is coming. Although there’s still no official word on a potential schedule makeover that would see the PGA Championship moved to May and the Tour season end on Labor Day, all indications are it’s just a matter of time.

Considering the changing landscape it’s worth putting some of the potential alterations into context. The Tour’s regular season would likely end next week – with the PGA bumped up – and would be followed by four consecutive weeks of playoff events with the finale held the last week of August in Atlanta.

Last week’s Open would conclude the major championship season, which draws the most attention from your average golf fan. There would also need to be some form of contraction, although there would be room to possibly displace events after the Tour Championship with the wraparound schedule to make room for the earlier finish.

None of these changes are official yet, but for better or worse it may be time to officially start taking notice.

Missed Cut

The Fighter. In late 2014 your scribe traveled to Australia to write a feature on Jarrod Lyle, the endearing giant who had beaten cancer not once but twice and was readying for his return to the Tour.

Over the course of a week with Lyle, his wife, Briony, and daughter, Lusi, the old clichés cropped up about keeping things in perspective and appreciating whatever came next, but it was a single comment from that time with Lyle that stood out.

“I want to give it [the Tour] one last chance and not have any regrets,” Lyle said of his impending comeback.

Lyle’s competitive fortunes didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped and he returned to Australia last fall, but remained upbeat and at ease with his choices.

This week Lyle confirmed via FaceBook that his leukemia had returned.

“Sadly it’s all 100 percent true, another cancer diagnosis. I’m determined to be positive through this (as much as I can) so here is my last moment before the chemo is hooked up. Could be one of my last pics with a ‘full’ head of hair!” he wrote.

Lyle’s plight is unimaginable and utterly unfair, but having watched his resolve to beat cancer the second time and return to the Tour, if anyone can do it a third time it’s Jarrod.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”