Cut Line: Paying for Tiger and Phil

By Rex HoggardJuly 6, 2012, 6:52 pm

In this week’s lineup, Dottie Pepper gets a much-deserved second chance for Solheim Cup glory, appearance fees on the PGA Tour endure a second look and the math and magic of the world golf ranking screams for a second opinion.

Made Cut

A dash of Pepper. It was a momentary lapse into what she thought was a closed microphone that led to five years of regret for Dottie Pepper, but on Wednesday U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon took the high road and named Pepper, one of America’s most fiery competitors, an assistant captain for next year’s matches.

Pepper had been on the Solheim Cup persona-non-grata list since she referred to the U.S. side during the 2007 matches as “choking, freaking dogs.” The comment rightfully rankled many U.S. players and Pepper, once considered a shoo-in captain, was cut out of the event.

On Wednesday, an emotional Pepper admitted that she has regretted the comment every day for five years.

“I was delighted for Dottie,” Annika Sorenstam said on Thursday’s “Morning Drive.” “She is such a large part of the Solheim Cup and she brings a lot of intensity.”

High praise considering that Sorenstam once taped a picture of Pepper onto a punching bag during one particularly heated Solheim Cup.

Tweet of the day: @HunterMahan “(Steve) Nash to (the Los Angeles) Lakers? Oh happy day! I loved Canadians before this day, now I want dual citizenship!”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Appearances. Despite reports to the contrary, the PGA Tour doesn’t allow appearance fees, but as tournament officials have become more savvy the practice of doling out back-door appearance fees has become common.

The theory is simple: you don’t buy a pair of Super Bowl tickets for $5,000, you buy an envelope for $5,000 that just happens to have two tickets in it. Word on the practice range this week is that both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson received “show up” money for this week’s Greenbrier Classic. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that some have used the occasion to suggest it may be time to open Tour tee sheets up to the highest bidder.

The problem with appearance fees, either overt or otherwise, is the impact they have on events that can’t or won’t sign big checks for big names. Next week’s John Deere Classic, for example, is a small-market stop that soldiers on without the occasional cameo from Woods or Mickelson.

If appearance fees were to become commonplace on Tour boutique events like the John Deere would likely move from being a success story to an endangered species.

Blind Justice. Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has, by all accounts, dusted off The Greenbrier resort, and the Old White TPC, and recreated an American gem, but the ambitious owner may have overstepped this week when he told that he has his sights set on hosting a U.S. Open.

“We have just barely got into the infancy of having dialogue in regard to the U.S. Open,” Justice said. “I’ve put out some feelers with others toward the USGA, but I have not had any direct communication whatsoever.”

While crowds this week have been impressive, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is closer to the middle of nowhere than a major metropolitan market and this is, after all, the same course that yielded a 59 to Stuart Appleby just two years ago.

Besides, there would be something inherently icky about a course with a “TPC” in its title hosting the national championship.

Turkey and Tiger. The idea is high-minded enough: bring together eight of the world’s top players for a showcase event in Turkey, which will use the event to help woo the 2020 Olympic summer games.

The event, which will be sponsored by Turkish Airways and feature a $5.3 million purse, is the work of European uber-agent Chubby Chandler with International Sports Management and, according to initial reports, would include the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

Although the event is heavy with upside, Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg said the reports were a tad preliminary and that details remain to be worked out, and Chandler admitted this week on “Morning Drive” that the event has created a bit of a scheduling “mess” this year.

This year’s event, which will feature a match-play format and award $1.5 million to the winner, will be played nine days after the Ryder Cup, but Chandler was confident a better date could be found.

Admittedly the event has found a balance between high-minded and high-dollar, but considering the logistics of an already crowded golf schedule it could quickly go from being a solution for Turkey to a problem for professional golf.

Missed Cut

Diamond roughed up. News last week that Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has stepped down amid a flurry of fines and accusations that the financial giant rigged an important interest-rate benchmark sent ripples of concern through the golf world.

Barclays has been a key player in the game for some time and currently sponsors the first FedEx Cup playoff event on the PGA Tour, an event on the European Tour and Phil Mickelson.

On Wednesday, Mickelson said the resignation would not impact his endorsement agreement with Barclays and he told one Golf Channel insider that he felt Diamond was being made a “scapegoat” for the scandal that surfaced four years ago.

“Personally I’m crushed because I have really enjoyed my time with Bob,” said Mickelson, who first signed a multiyear deal with Barclays in 2008.

Golf has established itself as a risk-free sponsorship property for some time. Too bad some of those who have subscribed to that theory haven’t been as risk-free.

Math. The world golf ranking debate is becoming as repetitive as it is ridiculous, but last week’s calculations became too much for Cut Line to ignore.

Following his victory at last week’s AT&T National, a haul that netted 48 ranking points, Woods vaulted from fourth in the ranking to . . . well, fourth. Mathematicians will explain that Woods’ lack of mobility has everything to do with the ranking’s minimum divisor (40) and his limited playing schedule over the past two years (33 events).

Fair enough, but when a player has won three out of his last seven starts and yet remains mired at No. 4 it may be time for a makeover. A 52-week ranking window may not be the answer, but it seems like a good place to start to the conversation.

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.”