Cut Line: Poulter, Woods and scheduling

By Rex HoggardApril 24, 2015, 3:30 pm

Halfway through the PGA Tour season, a strong rookie class continues to make a statement, Ian Poulter takes to Twitter to state his case 140 characters at a time and the PGA of America seems to be speaking volumes about Fred Couples’ future as a Ryder Cup captain.

Made Cut

Class acts. By comparison, this year’s Tour rookie class was always going to be an upgrade over last year’s group but midway through the 2014-15 season it’s starting to look like a rout.

Last season just two rookies kept their Tour cards, compared to nine of the 21 newcomers this season who are currently inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup point list.

Nick Taylor, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, is leading the class, while Daniel Berger is currently 22nd on the season-long points list following his runner-up showing at the Honda Classic.

But it’s Justin Thomas who has been the most consistent, posting four top-10 finishes in 16 starts. Like his friend Jordan Spieth, there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses in Thomas’ game and he’s played well on both the East and West coasts.

Unlike last year, when Chesson Hadley was the only choice for the Rookie of the Year Award, this year’s race may actually require a vote.

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BMW brouhaha. Ian Poulter is no stranger to social media slugfests, but the Englishman took things to the next level this week when he lashed out at a story in the Daily Mail that questioned his decision to not play this year’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.

The Daily Mail used Jordan Spieth’s decision to play last week’s RBC Heritage as evidence that sometimes professionals should consider the bigger picture and not just individual needs when it comes to scheduling.

Poulter took to Twitter to defend his decision to not play the BMW PGA (see below) and also pointed out his involvement in bringing the British Masters back to the European Tour later this year at his home course in England, Woburn Golf Club.

Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are also skipping the BMW PGA which suggests this isn’t about world ranking points or an unpopular golf course as much as it is a wildly condensed schedule with little flexibility for the game’s top players.

Tweets of the week:



Poulter added some more colorful comments, but you get the idea.

Worlds apart. News this week that Tiger Woods will be making a goodwill tour to Asia is hardly groundbreaking, and word that he has been tabbed to redesign a golf course in Beijing is a testament to his growing global brand, but it still leaves some to wonder about his day job.

Woods announced on Friday that he will play next week’s Players Championship and Jack Nicklaus confirmed that he verbally committed to play the Memorial in June.

But that still leaves a limited number of starts for the former world No. 1 if he maintains his normal schedule – The Players, Memorial, U.S. Open, Open Championship, Quicken Loans Nationals and PGA Championship (he’s not currently qualified for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or the FedEx Cup playoffs).

His play at Augusta National was encouraging and the confidence he gained invaluable, but it’s still hard to imagine how he maintains that momentum with what can only be described as a part-time schedule.

Rooting interest. Maybe Nick Faldo’s comments were delivered, as Jack Nicklaus said, with his tongue firmly planted in check. Maybe the CBS Sports analyst was just playing to the crowd, but the Englishman certainly sent mix messages this week at an event in Ohio.

According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, during a luncheon at Ohio State Nicklaus and Faldo were asked if they ever rooted against a player vying to break one of their records, like Spieth at this year’s Masters when he began his week with an 8-under 64.

While Nicklaus said he would never root against a player, Faldo added, “Oh, I do.”

“I was sitting up there dodging bullets from this young man. Day 1, he’s in the middle of the 15th fairway at 8 under par, and my fellow announcers were all, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if he shoots a 62?’ And I’m thinking, Jack [Nicklaus] and I are both in the 63 club; that’s the best round in any major,” Faldo said to the audience.

Nicklaus defused the situation, saying, “[Faldo was] obviously making a joke with his comments about Jordan yesterday, and everyone at the function, including me, took it that way.”

While Faldo’s comments seemed to have been overblown, it should still make next year’s Champion’s Dinner at Augusta National more interesting.

Missed Cut

Captain obvious. While it remains unclear how things evolved behind closed doors the decision of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force to tab Davis Love III, and not Fred Couples, as America’s next captain continues to baffle.

According to various sources, Couples was a popular choice to captain the next U.S. team in the immediate aftermath of last year’s matches, but when Love was introduced earlier this year the company line was that he was a unanimous choice.

Couples, who is captaining an American team this week in Dubai at the inaugural Icons Cup, said he is still holding out hope to one day lead a Ryder Cup team, “I am put off by not getting it this time, but having said that, if they ask me in 2018 I will certainly jump at it and accept it,” he said.

Under the PGA of America’s new plan, however, future captains will be groomed as assistants before taking over a team and only Tom Lehman has been named as one of Love’s assistants for 2016.

It’s a curious oversight and leads one to ask: Why not Freddie?

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

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On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.