Cut Line: Re-Opened

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2011, 8:41 pm

The Northern Irish Open, eh, make that the U.S. Open could well be the first of many major victories for young Rory McIlroy, but before we get ahead of ourselves let’s appreciate the 22-year-old’s accomplishment as well as the U.S. Golf Association’s acceptance of a Blue Course that yielded more red than the last midterm election.

Made Cut

U.S. Golf Association. It seems about right that the same week the USGA announced it was returning to Shinnecock Hills for the 2018 U.S. Open the organization would get blasted for the same kind of level-headed thinking that likely brought the storied New York venue back into the championship fold.

Shinnecock Hills, of course, was the site of the 2004 Open, the one most observers agree got away from the blue blazers. At Congressional, which is now being panned for being on the softer side of par last week, officials could have tricked up the greens in an attempt to protect par, but Rory McIlroy still would have won.

“I give all credit to the USGA,” said TV analyst David Feherty. “They could have sucked these greens bone dry with the SubAir system and tried to make them faster and all they would have done is make them unputtable. Believe me, that's the sort of mistake a few years ago that they would have made in a heartbeat.”

In this it’s better to ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Hearing the ‘Rors.’ When he won last year’s Quail Hollow Championship with a closing 62 there was reason to believe Rory McIlroy was indeed the complete package – style and substance.

When he rebounded from a closing 80 on Sunday at Augusta National with his historic victory at Congressional it was impossible to shake the feeling that something special was happening. That his father, Gerry, was waiting for him off the 18th green on Sunday only added to the storybook.

How do you make a world beater?

“His parents are unbelievably good,” McIlroy’s manager, Chubby Chandler, said earlier this year. “He’s sensible. He has good values. There is a bit of Darren Clarke in him here or there, but a lot of Rory McIlroy as well.”

Hilton Head. Lost amid McIlroy’s historic run was news last week the PGA Tour had finally landed some long-term financial security for the coziest event this side of Kapalua.

Royal Bank of Canada signed on to title sponsor the Lowcountry staple through 2016, ending months of speculation that one of the circuit’s longest-running and most-endearing events was going the way of the Dodo.

It’s also encouraging that the RBC Heritage will move back to its traditional post-Masters date beginning next year. However, there is no truth to the rumor that officials were going to replace the historic firing of the cannon with a slap shot from atop the island’s iconic lighthouse.

Tweets of the week: @PaulAzinger “Everyone was compared to Jack, especially Tiger. It’s inevitable that Rory is compared to Tiger now and Tiger at the same age. Enjoy it.”

’Zinger didn’t stop there, posting a scorecard to compare the two shortly afterward: “Driver-Rory. Irons-even. Wedges-Rory. Bunkers-Rory. Putter-Tiger. Health- Rory. Swing clarity-Rory. Confidence-Rory. Record-Tiger.”

Good stuff.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

International Final Qualifiers. Sure, they make life easier on the play-for-pay set and likely strengthen the field for next month’s British Open, but a recent conversation with Davis Love III reminded Cut Line of how cool it was seeing American pros schlep across the pond for the local qualifiers.

The local qualifiers are always played at classic, little-known gems like Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s and produced compelling storylines. This year, however, just three Americans are signed up for local qualifying, including journeyman Scott Dunlap.

“Why wouldn’t you at least try it?” Love said last month at Muirfield Village. “I always thought you should do whatever you could to play in a major.”

Note to any pro not in the Open Championship field: the only way to win a major is to actually play in one.

Phil Mickelson. Lefty arrived at Congressional with a spark in his eye and a driving iron in his bag, was reduced to a spectator for Rounds 1 and 2 paired with McIlroy, and played the weekend in 6 over par to finish tied for 54th, just the third time in more than a decade he’s finished outside the top 20 at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson turned 41 last Thursday, hardly over the hill but the five-time Open runner-up is inching closer to the Sunday of his career. Lefty made it clear that he does not need a national crown to complete his Hall-of-Fame resume, but the mantel is going to be oddly bare without one.

Missed Cut

Hurry-up historians. The numbers are nothing short of mind-boggling, 16 under par, eight strokes clear of the “B” flight, four rounds in the 60s, 62 of 72 greens in regulation. Simply put, McIlroy’s victory at Congressional was brilliant.

The hyperbole that followed, however, is at best premature and at worst blatantly unfair to the 22-year-old phenom.

“He's potentially the next Tiger Woods. He's that good,” fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell said of McIlroy.

“Potentially” being the key word. McIlroy is easy to like and his swing is nothing short of artistic. But before we welcome in golf’s “new era” let’s give the kid a chance to grow. Given the chance, he may even surpass all those wild expectations.

Doctor’s orders. Speaking of expectations, perhaps it’s a measure of how far the public’s 2011 prospects have fallen for Tiger Woods that his announcement this week that he will not play AT&T National was little more than a footnote.

There seems little chance that Woods will recover from his left knee and Achilles injury in time for next month’s Open Championship, and maybe it is best that he’s become such a model patient considering the extent of his injuries.

“I’m listening to my doctors and allowing time to completely heal,” he said on his website.

Still, it’s never easy to accept that the game’s biggest draw may sit out the remainder of the season. Best guess: we won’t see Woods between the ropes before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.