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Cut Line: Playing the results

By Rex HoggardJanuary 12, 2018, 9:22 pm

HONOLULU – In this week’s edition of Cut Line, Kevin Kisner in a 'Bama jersey, a prodigious drive by Dustin Johnson, and another curious violation of the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy.


Made Cut

Perspective. There are those who live and die by the fate of their chosen teams ... and then there’s Kevin Kisner.

Make no mistake, Kisner bleeds Georgia red and black and watched Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship with as much passion as anyone, and even in defeat he found a way to celebrate the event.

Kisner turned a friendly wager with Justin Thomas, arguably the Tour’s preeminent Alabama fan, into a chance to generate some money for his foundation. Their bet saw Kisner have to wear an Alabama jersey while playing the 17th hole on Thursday at the Sony Open.

“We're going to raffle [the Alabama jersey] off through my foundation, sell a bunch of raffle tickets, pick out a winner, and then give that money back to the children in our community,” Kisner said. “Justin is good enough to let me do it, and I'll get him back in the future.”

One small but important note, Kisner explained that Thomas resisted numerous requests to base the bet on the game’s line, which had Alabama favored by 3 1/2 points. The Tide won by four. 

“I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner joked. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

You know what they say, every match is decided on the first tee.

Tweet of the week:

No Bones about it. Following a few months with nothing more weighty than a microphone in his hand, Jim “Bones” Mackay didn’t lose a step on Thursday when he transitioned back to a more familiar role – caddying for Thomas.

Mackay stepped in for Thomas’ normal caddie Jimmy Johnson, who was sidelined last week with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, and only had a few awkward moments on Day 1 after 25 seasons with left-hander Phil Mickelson.

“My battles were cleaning the wrong side of the club and there were two or three times when I was on the wrong side of the ball,” Mackay laughed.

One member of the gallery joked on Thursday that Mackay also had to get used to being in the fairway a little more often than he was during his two decades with Lefty, who had a tendency to get a little wayward off the tee.

Mackay’s week became even more interesting on Friday when he pulled double duty, caddying for Thomas in the morning and joining the Golf Channel broadcast team in the afternoon, walking with Jordan Spieth’s group for the ultimate inside-the-ropes moonlighting.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Alarmist. Depending on who you ask, last week’s power display by Dustin Johnson at the Sentry Tournament of Champions was either a reason to celebrate what promises to be an epic season or lament the utter dominance of the long ball at the highest levels.

While the debate over the increasing distance players hit the golf ball is certainly worth having, last week’s stop at Kapalua should never be considered an accurate snapshot of the state of the game.

Last year on Tour, two of the 11 longest drives were at Kapalua (and seven of the top 11 came at Firestone during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).

This week’s event at Waialae Country Club is a better representation of how far players are hitting the ball, with just a single drive over 380 yards on Thursday. It’s also worth noting that Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk shared the Day 1 lead and both players are very much mid-length guys.

Driving distances are an issue, but using a single course to prove a point is hyperbolic and hopelessly pointless.


Missed Cut

Final solutions. Last week, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan conceded that the best outcome for a pair of lawsuits between the Tour and various parties would be a settlement.

Specifically, Monahan was asked about the circuit’s ongoing lawsuit with a group of caddies, which was filed in 2015 claiming violations of antitrust, intellectual property and contract law.

“We have had discussions with various caddies and various caddie leadership, but there was a suit that they filed, and we're following the process,” Monahan said. “We're hopeful that it comes to an end, and we can get back to the business of supporting them, because they're so important to what we do.”

The commissioner had a similar take on the Tour’s lawsuit with Vijay Singh, which was filed in 2013 after the 34-time Tour winner’s suspension for using deer-antler spray was rescinded.

The best outcome for golf, the best outcome for everyone involved, is a settlement, but that will take compromise, which has been desperately lacking in both lawsuits for far too long.

Unintended consequences. For the fifth time since the Tour initiated its anti-doping policy, a player has found themselves on the wrong end of a suspension.

This time it was Brad Fritsch, who self-reported a violation of the policy when he discovered there was a banned substance in a weight-loss supplement he was taking. The announcement came about a month after Mark Hensby was suspended for failing to provide a drug-testing sample when approached by officials at the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship.

Fritsch was popped for taking the same substance – DHEA, an over-the-counter anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour – as Scott Stallings, who also self-reported his infraction in 2015 after a similarly honest mistake.

Few things play out the way you imagined, but on this front the circuit’s foray into anti-doping has stayed on script. Few, if any, believed there was a doping issue in golf, but many – including some members of the Tour’s player advisory council at the time – worried these types of inadvertent infractions would become the norm.

This is not a defense of the players, who are ultimately responsible for what they put in their bodies, but it is an indictment of a program that was always going to have collateral damage.

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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.

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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

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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."

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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.