Cut Line: PGA Tour removes fun, but keeps secrecy

By Rex HoggardJanuary 16, 2015, 6:10 pm

With the lines blurred between split-calendar schedules and overlapping seasons it’s encouraging to see the world’s top players back in action this week in Abu Dhabi and Hawaii. To mark the occasion, consider this the “opening day” edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Now boarding. What in the world was written on that boarding pass?

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy revealed this week that, like previous seasons, he penned his objectives for 2015 on the back of his boarding pass en route to his season debut in Abu Dhabi.

Whatever it was that McIlroy wrote it seemed to work following opening rounds of 67-66 to move within two strokes of the lead along with his first hole-in-one in competition as a professional on Friday.

“I haven’t kept those boarding cards – once I don’t need them anymore, they are just discarded. It’s funny: The numbers of the seats have gradually gotten less and less … 13B, 12A, it’s been nice. And yes, this one in my back pocket is 1A. One day I won’t need a boarding pass – that’s the ultimate,” McIlroy smiled.

Interestingly, Cut Line has a similar tradition, although for the last 20 years we’ve had vastly different objectives. Our goal is to actually see what seat 1A looks like.

Latin flair. This week’s Latin America Amateur Championship is the kickoff to what promises to be an eventful time for golf in the region leading up to next year’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

The winner of this week’s event in Argentina will receive an invitation to play in the Masters and the reach of Augusta National was evident when club chairman Billy Payne arrived in his green jacket.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to this year’s Masters and Payne, along with R&A chairman Wilson Sibbett, were asked when Tiger Woods would win major No. 15? Predictably, Sibbett suggested the former world No. 1’s history on the Old Course, which will host the Open Championship this year, would make St. Andrews the obvious choice.

Payne had another idea.

“Well, we happen to be the next major that's competed, so I'll vote for the Masters,” he smiled.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Casey in point. In an interview with GolfChannel.com last year, Paul Casey became emotional when asked what the Ryder Cup meant to the Englishman.

It’s a sign of the times that Casey announced this week he had given up his European Tour membership, and with it his chance to play the Ryder Cup.

“It's a very tough decision. For as long as I've been professional I've been a member of the European Tour,” Casey said on Thursday at the Sony Open.

“I've been trying to play both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, and some years I've done it brilliantly, and other years I've failed miserably ... not being in the top 50 (in the Official World Golf Ranking) is really difficult to play both tours.”

When practicality trumps passion there’s something wrong with the system.

Tweet of the week:

 

Still locking down that 1st alternate spot, but just got some great advice from Tonya Harding on how to best deal with the situation.

— Steve Wheatcroft (@wheatiePGA) January 14, 2015

 

Wheatcroft would land a spot in the Sony Open, and open with a 2-under 68, and, thankfully, no professionals were injured in the making of this item.

Missed Cut

NFL (No Fun League). In what we can only assume is a continuing effort to rid the circuit of all frivolity, the PGA Tour announced this past week that players were no longer allowed to throw items into the crowd adjacent TPC Scottsdale’s raucous 16th hole at the upcoming Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“For fan safety reasons, players and caddies are prohibited from throwing, kicking, or otherwise propelling items into the crowd on the 16th hole,” the Tour-issued notice read.

While we have to assume running with scissors is already verboten by Tour regs, there are some other “risky” traditions the Tour should consider outlawing, including the caddie contest on Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole (have you seen some of these caddie’s swings?), the firing of the canon to begin the week at the RBC Heritage (that is unless the defending champion is experienced with that kind of firepower, like, say ... Boo Weekley) and the famous milkshakes at the Memorial (the Buckeye option is estimated to have 1 gagillion calories).

The Tour nixed the caddie races at TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole a few years ago, but if the suits in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., are serious about replacing the delirium with decorum they may want to consider toning down the sale of adult beverages.

Just a thought.

Need to know. National security secrets aren’t guarded as closely as many elements of the Tour’s anti-doping program.

This fact was magnified this week when the circuit announced that Web.com Tour player Bhavik Patel had been suspended for a year for violating the Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

“In an effort to overcome an injury, I made a lapse of judgment. I regret my decision but have learned from the experience and look forward to returning to competition,” Patel said in a statement.

What seems certain is that Patel is the first bona fide player to run afoul of the anti-doping policy. Although Doug Barron was the first player suspend for violating the program in 2009 he was later granted a therapeutic use exemption for at least one of the substances that caused his suspension.

What we don’t know is what substance caused Patel’s violation. Unlike most other major sports leagues, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Tour doesn’t release that information.

The circuit’s original anti-doping manual called for the release of the substance that caused the violation, but the Tour removed that provision from the policy the next year.

When it comes to testing the Tour values secrecy over sunshine.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.