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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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."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm