Cut Line: To play or not to play? That is the question

By Rex HoggardAugust 7, 2015, 8:52 pm

Golf began its countdown to the 2016 Olympics this week with plenty of talk about gold medals, while the PGA Tour seems to be missing a golden opportunity to make the Presidents Cup more competitive.

Made Cut

Olympic effort. Wednesday marked exactly one-year until the opening ceremony and golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years.

Officials celebrated the occasion with a media tour of New York City and a press conference at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a few potential Olympic golfers.

“It's been good for the game of golf worldwide,” said Henrik Stenson, who currently leads the Swedish contingent in the Olympic Golf Rankings.

“We've seen a lot more support in some emerging markets around the world for golf. With it being an Olympic sport, that really makes a difference in a lot of places.”

There are still hurdles for golf’s Olympic organizers (see Adam Scott item below), but after a rocky introduction that included concerns over the golf course and the format, the conversation has finally turned to the competition and what that will mean long after the medals are awarded.


11th hour heroics. Mired in perhaps his worst year on the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell opened with a 4-under 66 on Thursday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

It matched G-Mac’s lowest round of the year on Tour and the timing couldn’t have been better with the Northern Irishman languishing at 159th on the FedEx Cup point list with just two regular-season events remaining.

Lee Westwood, currently No. 114 on the season-long list, also helped his chances with an opening 68, as did Victor Dubuisson (68), who is currently outside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup standings.

The Tour’s post-season experiment continues to search for an identity during much of the year, but the excitement transcends traditional sporting boundaries when it comes to a genuine playoff push.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Feeling the Rors. For three days now Rory McIlroy has been spoon feeding his fans a steady diet of social media tidbits as the golf world awaits word on whether the world No. 1 will play next week’s PGA Championship.

Following a series of tweets and Instagram posts the last few days – posts that ranged from pictures of him working out to a snapshot of his plane headed to the United States – all signs point to McIlroy being in the field at Whistling Straits for the season’s final major championship.

“He’s progressing well through rehabilitation,” Sean O’Flaherty, a member of McIlroy’s management team, told Cut Line.

Despite the Ulsterman’s social media updates, it does seem to be a bit of a mixed message if, and that appears to be a big if, he chooses not to play the PGA.


Tweet of the week:


Straits and narrow. While there remains over 1,000 bunkers at Whistling Straits and they will all be considered bunkers for next week’s PGA Championship, just as they were in 2010 when the championship was played at the Pete Dye design, they will not all be in play next week.

Specifically the bunker down the right side of the 18th hole, the same hazard where Dustin Johnson grounded his club during the final round in 2010, will only be “partially” in play.

“The actual bunker that Dustin was in, part of the bunker is still visible but some of it is indeed covered with a structure,” PGA chief championships officer Kerry Haigh told Cut Line via an e-mail this week. “There still remains a lot of bunkers not covered and in play.”

Haigh said the PGA built more grandstands and brought “many parts of the championship infrastructure on to the golf course with views of golf holes or Lake Michigan.”

As a public service reminder, the bunkers that do remain uncovered at Whistling Straits are still bunkers. That is all.


Missed Cut

Wrestling with Rio. To be clear, Adam Scott is one of the game’s most forthright and well-spoken stars and it seems the Australian has come by his opinion regarding golf’s return to the Olympics after much thought.

That said, Scott’s decision to dig in regarding the Games seems shortsighted.

This week Scott told the Australian Associated Press that, “it’s absolutely a possibility I won’t go [to the Olympics] as it is not a priority in my schedule.”

Scott went a step further, calling golf’s return to the Olympics a “fun exhibition” and explaining, “[An Olympic medal] is nothing I have ever dreamed of having and it really doesn’t have any significance for golf.”

Few, if any, would argue that the ultimate accomplishment in golf is a major championship, but it is baffling how Scott seems to have overlooked the impact a gold medal can have not only on a career but to an entire country.


Presidential problems. International Presidents Cup captain Nick Price remains optimistic that the Tour, and specifically commissioner Tim Finchem, will agree to a requested format change for this year’s matches.

Price, along with former captain Greg Norman and Ernie Els, have been lobbying Finchem to decrease the number of team matches to something closer to the Ryder Cup format, but the Tour has been surprisingly slow to respond.

“[U.S. Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas] says winning never gets old. Losing certainly does,” Price said this week. “Just looking at the record of the Presidents Cup, we're 1-9-1. I think all of us on the team feel that a points change would really make it more exciting and more competitive.”

Price said he planned to meet with Finchem this week at Firestone and was hopeful the Tour would agree with his requested changes.

While Price’s optimism is encouraging, it would appear that the longer the Tour takes to make a decision the more likely it is they will stick with the status quo.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.