Cut Line: Pros face political and social fire

By Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2017, 6:18 pm

In this week’s eclectic edition, we cover presidential politics, pace of play and Pat Perez’s quest for context.

Made Cut

Executive privilege. Ernie Els was descending the hill from Riviera Country Club’s first tee last week when a fan shouted, ‘Yeah Ernie, Trump.”

Els, slump shouldered, dismissed the fan with a wave and without looking back. It was a tough week for the Big Easy, who missed the cut in Los Angeles and endured a surprising amount of slings and arrows on social media following a round of golf with President Donald Trump.

Rory McIlroy has experienced similar push back after he played a round with the POTUS recently. What those detractors seem to be missing is the apolitical realities of playing golf with the leader of the free world.

The New York Times anonymously polled players last week in Los Angeles, with 50 of 56 saying they would accept an invitation to play golf with President Trump.

“If it was Barack Obama, I would have played. If it was Hillary Clinton, I would have played,” Els told the New York Times.

For most Tour pros, playing golf with the president isn’t some tacit approval of his politics, it’s a respectful appreciation for the office – nothing more, nothing less.

Tweet of the week: ‏

The former U.S. Navy lieutenant has made headlines for a lot of reasons lately, primarily his emotional open letter to his late father, but it’s still his service that we respect the most.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Setting the pace. In a conference call this week R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers announced that this year’s British Amateur will feature “ready golf” as a way of speeding up play.

“Pace of play is something that we’ve been talking about extensively in the last 12 months,” Slumbers said. “The more evidence that I’ve seen this year, the more I’m going to continue talking about it because I think it is increasingly important to the development of the game.”

Slumbers also said this week that tour professionals are “role models,” including their pace of play that sets a bad example for young amateurs, which is certainly a fair assessment. Given that influence, however, why wouldn’t the R&A make the same “ready golf” move for The Open?

Tweet of the week II:

Funny and refreshingly self-deprecating moment for the Tour rookie particularly after finishing tied for 17th last week at Genesis Open.


Missed Cut

Florida Snag. There was a time when the PGA Tour event at Doral in South Florida was considered the unofficial start of the season, but that World Golf Championship has moved to Mexico City and for the first time since 1965 the circuit won’t have more than three events in its early-season swing through the Sunshine State.

The move away from Doral lightly impacted this week’s field at the Honda Classic, but the real damage will probably be felt later this month at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.

The Valspar Championship is now wedged between an international WGC and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is certain to draw a solid following the passing of Palmer last year.

The folks in Tampa have worked hard to make their event relevant during a tough stretch on the schedule, but the new Florida “swing” is starting to feel more like a slap.

Context is king. It is curious that his comments regarding Tiger Woods’ future have created so much controversy, because we have heard Pat Perez offer much edgier opinions on other topics.

But any time Woods is involved sensitivities are heightened, and Perez’s take on where Tiger goes from here set social media abuzz.

“Personally, I don’t think you’ll see him again this year. I think he’s out. The only thing he’s going to care about is Augusta. ... It’s not like he’s got his favorite major courses after Augusta,” Perez said during his monthly Sirius/XM show “Out of Bounds.” “I’m telling you, I don’t think you’re going to see this guy again. The guy can’t show up to an interview [in Los Angeles]. You think he thinks he can beat somebody? The guy can’t stand during an interview.”

Perez has never been shy with his opinion, but context is required here. Essentially, Perez’s thoughts were an extension of what he said earlier this year in Maui when the conversation turned to Woods.

“I hope he plays well, I’ve known the guy my whole life and he’s made us a lot of money,” he said at the Tournament of Champions. “What I don’t want to see is him struggle, because he won’t do it long. If he plays all five tournaments and misses all five cuts you won’t see him again. That’s just not in him.”

Maybe Perez isn’t your brand of vodka, but he deserves to have his comments taken in context.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.