Cut Line: Praising Royal Troon and Phil's partisanship

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2016, 4:49 pm

Tiger Woods chooses to sit out the rest of the season, Royal Troon is your scribe’s choice for Open rotation keeper, and some players are forced to make the toughest of Olympic choices in this week’s edition.

Made Cut

Completing the rotation. Last week’s stop at Royal Troon was the final piece of The Open puzzle for your scribe, having covered a championship at each of the nine venues.

St. Andrews is the best of the rotation, and arguably in all of golf for a variety of reasons, and Turnberry, regardless of your thoughts on Donald Trump, almost always produces historic finishes and is visually the most compelling of all the Open stops; but after last week’s event it’s clear Royal Troon rates a spot just shy of the Old and Ailsa courses in the lineup.

 Sunday’s shootout between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson proved that Royal Troon can produce the type of drama that separates good courses from great ones, and other than the two leading men nobody was claiming the layout was too easy (J.B. Holmes finished alone in third place at 6 under par, 14 strokes behind Stenson).

The wind and rain off the Firth of Clyde made for perfect Open conditions and the course’s architecture – from the quirky par-3 Postage Stamp to the demanding 11th hole, which played more than a half stroke over par – solidified Royal Troon’s spot at No. 3 on our utterly unofficial Open rota ranking.

The return of Royal Portrush to the Open rotation in 2019 could change this list, but for now Royal Troon is the championship’s quiet keeper.

Nothing Left unsaid. Imagine the setting, Mickelson fresh off a bogey-free 65 on Sunday at Royal Troon that left him three strokes behind Stenson.

Now imagine Lefty’s affinity toward the game’s oldest championship, which for so many years was an unsolved puzzle for him until his breakthrough in 2013. And finally consider his record at the U.S. Open, which continues to elude him.

“I think the R&A sets the golf course up to be as fair as possible and to try to identify the best player regardless of what the score is given the conditions,” Mickelson said. “The USGA has it in their mind that the score needs to be par, so no matter what lines they have to cross to get there, that's got to be the standard, and it kind of disregards and doesn't take into account the difference in talent level and abilities that the players of today now have.”

Six times a runner-up at the U.S. Open, Mickelson’s take on the USGA’s set-up philosophies were certainly understandable, but even in defeat at Royal Troon the southpaw allowed for his partisanship.

“I prefer [The Open set up]. I think that it's much more fair. I think we all enjoy it,” he said. “But I'm also biased because I've won this one and I haven't won the other one, so I've got that working against me.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

No time for reflection. Arguably the greatest shootout in major championship golf will quickly be pushed to the side in a few days when the game’s top players descend on New Jersey for next week’s PGA Championship.

A byproduct of golf’s return to the Olympics is a condensed schedule and rapid-fire majors, with the PGA looming before Stenson even has time to respond to all of the text messages he received after his victory in Scotland.

Perhaps the scheduling crush was inevitable and it’s hard to imagine a more workable scenario for 2020 when golf is scheduled to return to the Olympics, but it’s certainly left little room to digest one of the greatest Grand Slam finishes.

Congrats Henrik, now on to Baltusrol.

Tweet of the week:

Sometimes “random” drug testing can seem cruel.

Missed Cut

None and done. On Tuesday, Woods made it official, withdrawing from the PGA Championship and pulling the plug on 2016.

“Continuing to make progress, but simply not ready for PGA. Will not play in the '15/'16 season and will continue to rehab and work hard to then assess when he starts play for the '16/'17 season,” Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg said in an email to

Although he’s missed parts of other seasons in his career because of injury, this week’s announcement – while hardly unexpected – was an ominous sign for the former world No. 1.

That Woods is taking a conservative approach to this latest setback is telling. The man who has admitted to rushing back from injury in the past seems content to allow his body to heal and heed his doctor’s orders.

Perhaps the road to recovery is paved with patience, but that still doesn’t help the visual – Tiger Woods, 2016, out.

Rio reallocation. The final field for this year’s Olympics, 120 players in total, was released on Tuesday, and while players choosing not to make the trip to Rio is nothing new the reasons behind some of the withdrawals could have easily been avoided.

It’s simple math, not concerns over the Zika virus or security issues, that will keep Colombia’s Camilo Villegas from participating in next month’s Games.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision for me, but ultimately I have to do what's best for my career,” Villegas said in a statement. “Right now, I have not secured my PGA Tour card for next season and I have several opportunities to improve my FedEx Cup standing, one of which overlaps with the Olympics.”

At 146th on the FedEx Cup point list, Villegas has just four more starts, including this week’s RBC Canadian Open, to move into the top 125 and retain his Tour card for next year and one of those events (the John Deere Classic) will be played opposite the men’s competition in Rio.

Brendon de Jonge withdrew from the Games for similar reasons earlier this month, a decision that could have been avoided had the Tour been more proactive.

Officials could have offered current Tour players who qualify for the Games a one-year exemption, a relatively easy and limited decision given golf’s return to the Olympics.

Instead, the players had to make a much more difficult decision.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry