Cut Line: Remembering 'Wrong Ron' Balicki

By Rex HoggardMarch 28, 2014, 4:23 pm

It was a sad week for the game following the loss of fellow scribe Ron Balicki. He will be greatly missed.

Made Cut

Remembering @WrongRon. The golf world lost a legend on Tuesday with the passing of Ron Balicki, 65, a pressroom staple for more than 30 years.

Balicki, who died at home in Arkansas after a lengthy battle with cancer, joined Golfweek magazine in 1983 and covered every level of golf, but his focus, his passion, was the college and amateur games.

Balicki, whose annual picks for the NCAA Championship earned him the endearing nickname "Wrong Ron," covered 29 national championships and his passing was mourned by some of the game’s top players.

He was also a colleague, a friend and a mentor for your scribe for nearly a decade. Thank you, Ron.

Tweets of the week: @LukeDonald “So sad to hear of the passing of Ron Balicki. No one loved college golf more then him and it won’t be the same without him. RIP my friend.”

@RickieFowlerPGA “Ron was the first and only guy I called to release the news about my decision to turn pro . . . he was a special man and a true friend.”

@David59Duval “You will be missed Wrong Ron.”

Hadley’s high road. After last week’s closing 79 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational canceled his first trip down Magnolia Lane, it would have been understandable if Chesson Hadley had a letdown in his march to his first Masters. But that wouldn’t be Hadley’s style.

He opened with a 69 on Thursday at the Valero Texas Open and is tied for fourth place in his quest to crack the top 50 and earn a spot at the year’s first major championship.

Not bad for a rookie trying to earn a ticket to golf’s most exclusive party.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Q& (few) A’s. When Tiger Woods settled into his chair for Monday’s news conference in Washington, D.C., there was no shortage of outstanding business to attend to.

Atop that list was the state of the world No. 1’s back, which forced him to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has raised concerns that he may miss next month’s Masters, and Monday’s answers did little to clarify the situation.

“For Augusta, it’s actually still a little too soon (to know), to be honest with you,” Woods said. “That’s kind of the frustrating thing about this.”

It’s also too soon to speculate on the future of Woods’ event in the D.C. area. Monday’s news conference was to announce a new title sponsor, Quicken Loans, but the future location of the event remains unclear.

A proposal to hold the event every other year at Congressional is currently pending with the club’s membership. The final vote on the proposal, which would require the event to move away from the Blue Course in 2017 and ’19, will be made on Sunday, and it doesn’t seem to be a lock.

One club member told Cut Line this week the vote would be close. The last time Woods asked the membership to renew the lease the vote was surprisingly close, with 62 percent of the membership voting to keep the event at the Bethesda, Md., course.

Golf’s green ceiling. Word last week that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, as well as Muirfield and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, are poised to add female members is progress worth celebrating.

While it should be pointed out that clubs like Royal Troon have separate “ladies clubs” with virtually the same access to all of the club’s facilities as the men enjoy, in 2014 there is no way to justify these types of divisions at clubs that host such high-profile championships.

The only question now is what took so long?

Missed Cut

Na, Na, Na, Na ... Na, Na, Na, Na ... Hey, hey hey ... Kevin Na is hardly the only slow player on the PGA Tour, but it seems he’s the most defensive when it comes to his languid pace.

When Na’s pace became a talking point again last week he became defensive, diverting questions about his slow play or outright ignoring questions that he didn’t want to answer.

On this, Na should take a page from Ben Crane’s book. When Crane’s slow play became an issue a few years back he didn’t sidestep the issue; instead he embraced his troubles and admitted that he was trying to pick up the pace.

Na seemed to realize this following his round on Saturday at Bay Hill when asked by one writer if he drove fast?

“Oh, I drive fast,” he smiled, “I drive a Lamborghini.”

Wrong Hall call. Perhaps the World Golf Hall of Fame was broken. Perhaps it was time for a nip/tuck. Perhaps the path to relevancy is always littered with collateral damage.

But all that doesn’t explain the Hall’s plan to condense the selection process from a ballot that included some 300 golf writers, Hall of Famers and administrators to a commission of 16 people.

Nor do the changes – which were announced last Sunday at Bay Hill – address one of the Hall’s most glaring weaknesses, a minimum age of 40 to be considered for induction. Both Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els won major championships after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and imagine how awkward things might get in two years when Tiger Woods, a first-ballot inductee by any definition, turns 40.

Forty is the new 30 in professional golf and that reality won’t change. To be honest, Cut Line isn’t sure what the magic number is, although 55 has a good ring to it, but we know it’s not 40.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.