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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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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”