Cut Line: Patriots, Presidents, Playoffs

By Rex HoggardSeptember 4, 2015, 3:52 pm

Monday’s finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship means this week’s 36-hole cut on the PGA Tour won’t arrive until Saturday, but we’ve got you covered with a special Round 1 edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

A true patriot. During an event earlier this year in Tulsa, Okla., Major Dan Rooney announced that for the first time demand would outpace supply in the inspiring nine-year journey of the Folds of Honor.

Rooney, who founded the Folds in 2007 to provide educational support to the spouses and children of America’s fallen and wounded service men and women, wasn’t trying to temper expectations for 2015; that’s not the major’s style.

Instead he was inspiring the crowd and an organization that has already provided more than 7,500 scholarships, including $4.3 million worth in 2012.

This Labor Day weekend, courses across the country are participating in Patriot Golf Day with golfers adding $1 to their green fees to help fund the Folds of Honor.

Rooney closed his speech in May with a simple challenge: Don’t stop working until every request can be met.

Tweet of the week: @ZachJohnsonPGA “I knew he got lucky the first time around ...”

The Open champion was taking a friendly jab at Jordan Spieth, who threw out the first pitch on Tuesday at the Boston Red Sox game.

After tossing a perfect strike last month when he threw out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game, Spieth’s attempt at Fenway Park was high and wide.

Considering the competition, Cut Line would still pencil in the 22-year-old as our No. 1 starter.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Slam-med shut. The PGA of America announced this week that it would be canceling this year’s Grand Slam of Golf following the association’s decision in July to move the event away from Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles.

The move was prompted by Donald Trump’s controversial comments regarding Mexican immigrants and it appears the PGA was unable to find a suitable replacement.

While a one-year hiatus for the 36-hole exhibition is hardly a cause for concern, it is disappointing considering how entertaining this year’s major championship season was.

As an alternative to an outright cancelation, may we suggest the PGA relocate the event to Dallas National and have Spieth, Jason Day and Johnson – no need for an alternate – play what would be an awesome game of “wolf.”

Presidential hopefuls. Who would have thought that Nick Price, captain of this year’s International Presidents Cup team, would have an easier decision with his captain’s picks than his counterpart Jay Haas?

With the matches being played in South Korea for the first time in October, it seems likely Price will select Byeong-Hun An, who was born in Seoul and is currently 11th on the point list.

While Price’s second option may not be as clear cut, if Sangmoon Bae, who is scheduled to report for mandatory military service at the end of this season in South Korea, can piece together another solid week following his tie for sixth at The Barclays it could make Price's second pick just as straightforward.

Haas, however, will have a much more complicated choice. With both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson outside the automatic qualifiers, conventional wisdom suggests his first pick would be one of the two veterans (probably Mickelson).

With his son, Bill, currently perched at No. 11 on the points list Haas will find himself in an unenviable position for his second selection, with the decision coming down to Bill Haas, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Missed Cut

Silly math. In recent weeks McIlroy reclaimed his place atop the Official World Golf Ranking from his couch and Day moved to within a confusing round of mathematical musical chairs of the top spot.

This week Spieth, who was overtaken by McIlroy on Monday, said that Day was No. 1 “right now,” which goes to the heart of the current world ranking debate.

The ranking’s two-year rolling cycle may not be a perfect system, as we saw on Monday when McIlroy moved back to No. 1 without hitting a meaningful shot, but it is the best golf has.

While the top spot gets the most attention, the real intrigue with the world ranking isn’t based on who is ranked No. 1 as much as it is the player at No. 51, with the top 50 being the widely held benchmark for entry into the game’s best events.

The top ranking makes for good water-cooler conversations, but since we aren’t hearing a lot of debate whether Brendon Todd (currently No. 50) is .001 average ranking point better than Victor Dubuisson (No. 51) then it seems the OWGR folks are doing something right.

Back to the drawing board. Since the Tour continues to tinker with the FedEx Cup Playoffs, points for this year’s postseason events were reduced from five times those awarded during the regular season to four times as many, it seems an apropos time to improve participation.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff stop to rest his mending ankle, which was a perfectly understandable move, but Sergio Garcia’s decision to sit out the first two playoff stops should set off alarms in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The Spaniard, who began the postseason 31st on the points list, decided to skip the first two events because, well he could. There is no way to make the independent contractors play, but the Tour could create a format where players are penalized, say 500 points, for skipping events.

The playoff concept may not be a perfect fit for golf, but the idea of a “bye” week certainly doesn’t work either.

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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1