Cut Line: Players changing course in different ways

By Rex HoggardAugust 4, 2017, 6:43 pm

Another player-caddie split highlights this week’s edition, with Rory McIlroy deciding he can’t be a part of two until he’s a better one; while Phil Mickelson may end up being the one on the outside looking into a U.S. team room for the first time in more than two decades.

Made Cut

Bae’s back. Last we saw Sangmoon Bae he was battling the emotions of a lost Presidents Cup match, a pivotal 2-up decision to Bill Haas, and bound for two years of uncertainty.

Following those ’15 matches in South Korea, Bae reported for a two-year mandatory military obligation, which ends on Aug. 16. When the 31-year-old was forced to forego a burgeoning career to report for duty, the Tour added a regulation that would allow a player to keep his status after fulfilling this type of mandatory commitment, which means he can pick up where he left off when the new season starts in October.

Bae’s manager with All That Sports told Cut Line he plans to play a Korean PGA Tour event in September before beginning his comeback on the U.S. tour this fall.

Too often in the past a case like Bae’s would have fallen through the cracks, and he would have fulfilled his obligation only to face an uncertain future.

But thanks to some proactive governance, he has an opportunity, and for a player as talented as Bae that’s all he would want.

Changing paths. Rory McIlroy doesn’t like the term sacked or axed or even fired, so instead of a pink slip for his former caddie J.P. Fitzgerald the Northern Irishman went with a less-loaded term.

“I just changed my path a little bit,” McIlroy said this week of his split with Fitzgerald, who had been with the world’s fourth-ranked player for the better part of nine years.

McIlroy went on to explain that he needed to go in a different direction to “preserve a personal relationship,” and while that may sound a little like “it’s not you, it’s me,” the truth is the vast majority of player-caddie relationships aren’t built to last.

Look no further than the recent split of Phil Mickelson and his longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. As one caddie opined after hearing the news of Lefty’s split with Bones, “the fairytale is over.”

What McIlroy does next is always the ultimate litmus test, and it’s worth noting his first round without Fitzgerald on the bag on Thursday (67) he dubbed “awesome,” but give Rory credit for not being averse to change, even if that change was extremely personal.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

SC featured. With the ease of a fade-away three-pointer at the buzzer, Steph Curry silenced any and all critics of his moonlighting gig this week on the Web.com Tour.

The Golden State star opened with a 74 at the Ellie Mae Classic. That was a stroke better than playing partner Sam Ryder, who won two weeks ago on the developmental circuit, and two clear of Frank Lickliter II, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour.

Now, full disclosure demands we point out that Curry was five strokes outside the cut line after Day 1 and nine shots off the lead. But regardless of what happens on Friday, Curry’s play was impressive, inspired even.

What lands the Web.com Tour event in the MDF category this week is a growing concern among players on how sponsor exemptions are doled out. While Curry’s pass checked off all the right boxes – fan interest, competitive relevance, local ties – there are too many times when exemptions on the secondary tour go to the biggest name and not the most deserving player.

As entertaining as Curry’s play has been this week, this should be the exception not the rule.


Tweet(s) of the week: @wheatiePGA (Steve Wheatcroft): “I hope you're trying to move the line in Vegas re: Steph. Take the over and BIG. No chance in hell [Curry] breaks 76.”

Wheatcroft, who is playing his sixth season on Tour, was responding to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, who set the line for Curry’s debut at 76.

“Hell hath frozen over,” was Curry’s response on Twitter following his opening 74.

To Wheatcroft’s credit, he quickly owned his miscue, tweeting back to Curry: “Mad respect, bud. I have no problem eating this crow. Keep the mojo going tomorrow, and enjoy yourself out there.”

Social media can be fun.


Missed Cut

Lefty’s legacy. The last time Mickelson didn’t put on a U.S. team uniform Jordan Spieth was a 1-year-old and American Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker was playing his first full season on Tour.

All total, Lefty has been a team room staple on 22 Presidents and Ryder Cup teams, but that career-defining streak may be nearing an end this year.

Mickelson is currently 17th on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list, 579 points behind the last qualifier at the moment No. 10 Charley Hoffman, and he likely has just four starts to make his move before the team is finalized on Sept. 4.

“I want to make that team,” Mickelson said this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “It’s more than a streak as much as it is I just love those events. I love those weeks, I love the time with the guys and I just really cherish those memories.”

Mickelson’s precarious position on the points list may end up leaving Stricker in an awkward position when the time comes to make his two captain’s selections next month. The current list of would-be captain’s picks included Gary Woodland (No. 15), Brandt Snedeker (14), Jason Dufner (13), Brian Harman (12) and Patrick Reed (11).

Unless Mickelson’s competitive fortunes change quickly, this could come down to whether Stricker wants the best available player or a team room leader.

Stay tuned.

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."